The presence of the Internet and digital technologies today will surprise few people. We are accustomed to many services, as if we have been using them all our lives. However, digital technology goes further, making our apartments, houses, streets and even cities smarter. Some are already lucky enough to live in a smart city while others are still dreaming of it. Residents of Krichev, for example, were lucky, becoming the first residents of an intellectual territorial unit, albeit a pilot one. However, the progress did not stop there. The MT reporter learned about the prospects for digitalisation in the country from Sergei Kruglikov, Giprosvyaz Deputy Director for Science and Development.
First in Europe and in the region
— Is it true that our country is almost ahead of the rest of the planet in laying fibre? — Over the past five years, Belarus has really created a serious infrastructure reserve in the field of digitalisation. It is a data transmission network that meets international standards. RUE Beltelecom occupies a leading position in Europe in fibre-optic laying. Our country can be proud of this. Of course, Belarusian geography is partly contributing to the construction since no destruction of rocks is required for laying cables. The ultimate goal for us is to provide each customer in Belarus with a high-quality access to a single network of all electronic services.
Reliable centres for storing and processing information, identification mechanisms, an online payment system, modern electronic means and information security tools have been created. The country has everything for the development of the digitalisation sphere. — How does digitalisation affect the country’s economy? — There are positive trends in the influence of digitalisation. For example, in H1 2021, the value added totalled $2.4 billion in the information and communication sector. The growth rate is about 107 percent. Moreover, the share of digitalisation in GDP is already about 8 percent. It’s a good start, which is marked in numerous ratings. Thus, according to the index of development of information and communication technologies of the International Telecommunication Union, we are ranked 32nd in the world and first in the Eastern European region. This is an indicator of high prospects for the creation of e-government.
— How is this related to the development of the direction of smart cities? — We have built a system related to the implementation of modern digital technologies in everyday life. Not only at our enterpries, but also in the social sphere: medicine, education, transport, industry and in general, improving the quality of life of the population. To implement the plans, the 2021-2025 Digital Development of Belarus state programme was launched.
Of course, the first year of its implementation is the most difficult, because at the beginning of the journey, it’s necessary to develop a number of documents so that the projects can be carried out according to agreed rules. In general, the task of the Digital
Development of Belarus programme for 2021-2025 is the transition to the formation of state and industry digital platforms. Moreover, this is also the active development of electronic services for our citizens and business. Our organisation is currently developing about 11 standards for smart
cities. Here we use world experience and the experience of Russia, while also taking into account the adaptation to the realities of the Belarusian economy and our peculiarities.
— What are these peculiarities? — Globally, smart cities are usually in highly urbanised areas with a high degree of readiness to implement such technologies.
Speaking about the introduction of digitalisation in our regions, we are faced with the need to increase the digital literacy of both the population and administrations and management of enterprises. But today the situation is changing. The administrations of many cities are ready to implement ideas aimed at improving the quality of life in the regions.
Another peculiarity is financing. Elsewhere in the world, private capital is primarily used for the implementation of smart city technologies. In our
country, the programme was formed with a high share of state support. This does not mean that partnership with private capital is impossible, but it is obvious that personal data issues are under the control of the state.
Next station is Orsha
— Today, many elements of a smart city have been implemented in Minsk. What’s next? — We have serious ideas about Orsha. We are planning to create a whole smart quarter here as an element of a smart city. The area has been determined: a very young development. We want to lay down a number of aspects on the basis of the prototype of the software, which will later form the basis of situational centres and awareness centres of administrations and services of cities and districts. This is due to the complex use of many areas, for example, smart energy consumption. It is planned to equip houses in this area with meters for remote data collection. This refers to water supply, heating, gas and electricity consumption. — Earlier, RUE Beltelecom announced the creation of a control system for intelligent buildings. What will it control? — Indeed, the universal intelligent building control system is the brainchild of our organisation. This is a planned hardware and software complex that will link together energy suppliers and residents, that is, consumers will automatically make all payments and maintain an analytics system for the rational use of energy resources. — Will the Orsha innovations affect the social sphere? — Without a doubt. They will affect transport and garbage disposal, and many other things. Orsha is a rather big city, which means that there is a problem with places for cars. Therefore, we are planning to introduce an intelligent parking system. Moreover, we are planning to organise smart container sites, which — thanks to special sensors — will inform people about the filling of the tanks. They will also give information about fire. We will not ignore street lighting either. Here, as the Belarusian experience shows, there is a colossal savings reserve. Cost savings can range from 56 to 68 percent depending on the season. — Where do you plan to buy such equipment? — This is another reason for pride, since the equipment will be domestically-manufactured. We have enough producers to be able to replicate these solutions. But you can’t replicate without checking. It is worth noting that the smart quarter of Orsha is located near two educational institutions: secondary school No. 13 and nursery-kindergarten No. 52. A video surveillance and video analytics system will be implemented here. We are currently preparing design estimates for the implementation of the project. — Will a smart city not only bring comfort, but also save money? — Preliminary calculations show that there will be cost savings for each device. This is clearly demonstrated by the projects already implemented. For example, just 400 economical streetlights installed in Novopolotsk have saved about 12 percent on the city’s street lighting system. In conclusion, I would like to note that one of the goals of the smart quarter implementation in Orsha will be to develop proposals for replicating smart city solutions in other regions of the country.