E-democracy is about influencing government’s decisions and finding priority issues, recently appointed Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov shared with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze. At 29, he is the youngest member of the new Russian cabinet.
RT: We’ve seen how powerful the internet is – it can make revolutions and bring down regimes. How much should government around the world interfere in this domain? Where is the fine line between censoring the internet and go out policy?
Nikolay Nikiforov: The only government interference should be protecting our children from the not allowed content. It should also cover some intellectual property and corporate issues. But it is definitely not about restricting access to certain communication services and websites.
We can positively use this technology to communicate with our citizens. The whole Open Government project in Russia is about that.
RT:Do you believe in electronic democracy?
NN: I do believe in e-democracy, but sometimes it is so much totally focused on electronic elections. I think e-democracy is a wider concept.
I think e-democracy is more about influencing particular government decisions. It is about trying to find priority issues. I believe we can introduce some kind of a federal level regulation on that. Every single government institution should use this data coming from the information system on a daily basis and with the same responsibility as the incoming paper correspondence.
RT: How true there are monopolies on the Russian media market and, if true, is it threatening democracy?
NN: I don’t see any government regulation on the mass-media market in general. Still there is government influence from the government-owned mass media. But there are no actual legal barriers for the mass-media market development. Hopefully, we’re not a country where internet access to certain content and websites is limited, as it happens in many parts of the world. There is [room] for some competition.
RT:How much of a game changer are the new media in Russia?
NN: The access of our households to the broadband internet is definitely re-shaping the way we plan our day, do business and communicate, also on political issues.
Yandex [Russian search engine – Ed.] has more visitors daily than the First TV channel of Russia. But if we speak about the general coverage of the country, including some far distant villages, television is still the major player if we speak about the media. In large cities… about 78 per cent of the households are already connected with broadband internet access.
RT: Do you see the new media, the internet, aging out the old types of media altogether?
NN: Definitely not completely.
RT:What is your priority at the moment? Broadband access, increasing media freedom or fighting [media] monopoly?
NN: Definitely it is broadband access. It is one of the key infrastructure development issues in every country in the world today. It is probably as important as building roads, bridges and so on.
RT: Intellectual property requires regulation globally. Your predecessor came with an initiative to make all media content on the internet unprotected and virtually free unless a producer specifies otherwise. Are you going to continue this policy?
NN: We have to follow this concept of self-identification on how to protect the content published electronically. We believe we live in the century of the increasing digital connectivity and increasing value of digital content. Publishers should decide on their own how to protect it.
RT: Where is the balance between those who make the content and those who consume it?
NN: We believe the balance is a kind of open market. We want to give all the possibilities to the content producers to decide on that. This is the initiative offered by the ministry.
RT:Do you believe that the world one day could be 100 per cent digitalized?
NN: We can certainly reach [the] possibility to communicate 100 per cent electronically. I believe it is more realistic to be 95 per cent just because sometimes technology could be very oppressing.