Eduard Lysenko is a driving force behind Moscow’s smart city journey. He explains why cities must develop beyond being simply an administrative machine and into a partner and helper to the citizen.
SmartCitiesWorld: What is the main purpose of your role?
Eduard Lysenko: The main task of the Moscow Government is to systematically improve the quality of life in the city. This is the key goal of Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin and all those working on his team. Information technology is an indispensable tool for this task, since it is extremely difficult to run a huge metropolis with a multi-million population manually, without using digital solutions and analysing big data.
For example, today, Moscow’s Unified Medical Information and Analysis System (EMIAS) has more than 14 million electronic medical records of patients. Thanks to digitalisation, all the necessary information about a patient is available at any time to doctors in any municipal polyclinic, no matter where the person goes. This would have simply been impossible in paper form.
The Department of Information Technology of Moscow is responsible for the digitalisation of all sectors of the urban economy and social sphere – health, education, housing and communal services, culture, economy, security and others. Specific tasks for us are always related to certain management decisions that are made at city-level administration.
SCW: What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you?
Lysenko: We, like many advanced world’s cities, stick to the international terminology. For example, the UN defines smart cities through their use of innovations and ICT to improve the quality of life and the efficiency of urban services, while considering not only the current generation of citizens, but also the future ones.
A smart city is primarily a city that is comfortable and convenient for life. To this effect, it is necessary that every sphere citizens interact with on a daily basis – transport, healthcare, education, culture, social support and others – is smart. Interaction with the city should be simple and clear, and the city itself should develop beyond simply an administrative machine and into a partner and helper to the citizen. This cannot be realised without the use of IT, since conventional, non-digital management models no longer work in big cities, where millions of people move and interact daily, and are used to living at high speeds and receiving high-quality services.
Muscovites can solve almost any life situation online, and thanks to the development of chatbots and voice assistants, they can get an answer to their questions in seconds
In this sense, Moscow is indeed one of the smartest megacities in the world, which is confirmed by numerous international ratings. We introduce technologies not for their own sake and not for positions in the ratings, but for the sake of citizens, their comfort and convenience. Technologies saved them from visits to the authorities, collecting paper certificates and documents. Muscovites can solve almost any life situation online, and thanks to the development of chatbots and voice assistants, they can get an answer to their questions in seconds. The trust accorded by the residents today to digital projects and services in Moscow shows that the city is on the right track.
SCW: What are some of the key milestones/initiatives in your smart city journey so far?
Lysenko: The development of the smart city can be divided into three stages. The first is computerisation, providing the city with basic digital infrastructure. This includes equipping city institutions with current technology, the development of telecommunication networks and the capacity of data centres where urban data is processed and stored.
The availability of a reliable, well-developed digital infrastructure in the city makes it possible to move to the digitalisation stage, that is, to the transfer of the main processes of city management into electronic form. This may be regarded as the transition to electronic document management between departments, the creation and development of online services and services for citizens.
And when the city reaches such a level of digitalisation, when any issue is easier and faster to solve online, there comes a stage of digital transformation of familiar business processes and consumption patterns. For example, Moscow felt it especially clearly during the coronavirus pandemic: moving online, many residents appreciated the convenience of this format and now prefer to receive city services in electronic form, although only a year ago they needed to personally come to government service centres for them. And the authorities began to pay even more attention to the development of their digital projects, understanding how important it is for the citizens.
SCW: What is your number one priority right now?
Lysenko: Again, the number one priority for the entire team of the Moscow Government is to improve the quality of life in the city. If we talk about digitalisation, today Moscow has already reached a high level of ICT development, and now we are striving to improve the quality and convenience of the already provided e-services. To do so, we use big data analysis, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other technologies.
For example, we are gradually “training” the mos.ru portal to proactively provide city dwellers with services that may be useful to them. So, in April, we automatically opened access to electronic medical records to all users who had previously proved their identity and upgraded their account to “full”. That is, people do not need to submit an application and wait for it to be considered, they can use the service immediately, they just need to verify their phone number.
In the future, entire superservices will appear on mos.ru, which will combine all the services necessary in specific life situations. For example, following a birth of the child the system itself will offer to register them in kindergarten and inform the parents about the due payments. We have already launched the first superservice for the participants of the Moscow renovation program: it not only gives users personal instructions and notifies about all stages of the move, but also helps call in movers to transport belongings to a new apartment.
SCW: What do you see as your biggest achievement since you started the role?
Lysenko: Digitalisation is a very sensitive subject for many, especially for the older generation. Therefore, we consider the high confidence of citizens in digital services and projects that the city implements to be the main IT achievement of the entire Moscow Government team. In fact, today Moscow has a large-scale digital ecosystem, which is used by around 14 million people. The demand for city services is growing every year, we also record an increase in traffic to Moscow Internet resources and mobile applications. Technologies have become a familiar and integral part of the life of Muscovites, and this is the result of the considerable work of both the Moscow Government and the entire IT industry.
The pandemic has become a litmus test for all urban systems, and now, after a year, we can say that Moscow has passed this test with dignity
In addition, over the past few years, Moscow has implemented several breakthrough projects that laid the groundwork for the city’s IT development in the coming years. For example, in 2019, Moscow was the first in Russia to organise electronic voting in elections. And if in the pilot mode more than 10,000 voters took part in it, then a year later, during the voting on amendments to the constitution, more than a million people took part. In addition, Moscow became the first city in Russia to introduce fifth generation communication technologies.
Together with operators, we launched several 5G pilot zones, and also opened our own 5G demonstration centre where developers, including small start-ups, can test their solutions.
Moscow is also a Russian leader and, one might say, a pioneer in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. The city has been using AI for several years in healthcare, transportation, security issues, interaction with citizens and business. The accumulated expertise made it possible to launch an experimental legal regime in the field of artificial intelligence in Moscow in 2020. The regulatory sandbox will create a comfortable environment for the development and implementation of AI solutions, as well as work through the regulatory issues of this industry.
SCW: What is the best part of the job?
Lysenko: The ability to create solutions that will be used by millions of people and on which the functioning of a huge city depends. I reiterate that the Moscow mayor uses IT on a daily basis as a tool for managerial decision-making. And to city residents, technology is an opportunity to learn, take care of their families, run businesses and solve everyday issues. For every DIT employee it is both a great responsibility and a serious motivation.
SCW: What is your biggest challenge?
Lysenko: The coronavirus pandemic is by far the biggest challenge of recent years. The rapid spread of Covid-19 required us to react with lightning speed and create a series of digital solutions in the shortest possible time. Tasks that normally take six months to solve were solved in a matter of days during the pandemic. Almost the entire team of the Moscow Government has been working almost constantly for several months, realising its responsibility for the lives of people.
The regulatory sandbox will create a comfortable environment for the development and implementation of AI solutions, as well as work through the regulatory issues of this industry
I believe that the ability to respond quickly and efficiently to challenges using IT is another sign of a smart city. And in many ways, it was technology that helped Moscow smooth the curve of the spread of coronavirus, avoiding the scenario of the healthcare system simply did not having time to cope with a huge number of people getting sick. The pandemic has become a litmus test for all urban systems, and now, after a year, we can say that Moscow has passed this test with dignity.
At the same time, Moscow has not suspended the implementation of other digital projects unrelated to Covid-19 even for a day. And for some initiatives, the pandemic even served as a kind of catalyst. For example, we accelerated the transfer of public services in the property and housing sector to electronic form. And in October 2020, we opened an online ticket service to city cultural institutions on mos.ru, although initially we planned to launch it only in 2021.
SCW: If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
Lysenko: I am where I’m supposed to be.
SCW: What keeps you awake at night?
Lysenko: Rethinking events... At night (in the dark) a lot of things become clearer.
SCW: If you could make one change in your city tomorrow and money was no object, what would you do?
Lysenko: To make people kinder to each other.