Since the collection, interpretation, analysis and distribution of information is an important part of the activities of many governmental and private agencies and institutions, certain attempts are being made towards nation-wide co-ordination and regulation of information resource management. A number of laws are currently being considered to establish a legal foundation for the national information policy and to provide legal tools for the implementation of the rights of citizens stated in the Constitution:

The fundamental federal information law On Information, Informatisation (14) and the Protection of Information was adopted in 1995 with the intention to regulate

"... the creation, collection, processing, accumulation, storage, search, dissemination and delivery to users of documented information" (1 (1)) (15).

The main guidelines of the state information policy, as formulated in the law (3 (2)), are:

The law also contains a number of statements that make up a breakthrough in the regulation of access to information, including information classified as "state information resources" which is produced on a state-funded basis (7) or supplied on an obligatory basis by citizens, authorities, organisations and public groups (8).

A number of articles define the conditions and rights of access to state information resources:

Article 24 defines the order of protection of the right of access to information:

The law requires that the registration, certification and licensing of information products and services should be made in accordance with current Russian legislation (e.g. the law On Certification of Products and Services). This idea has caused a lot of concern in the private sector (Andreeva 1994, Shestopal 1994), since in general this might lead to state monopolisation of information sources and activities, and can also in practice simplify the access of state agencies to confidential private and commercial information (16).

The copyright is protected in Russia by the laws On Copyright and Related Rights, On the Legal Protection of Computer Programs and Databases, and some other acts. Russia is also a member of the International Copyright Convention and the Berne Convention.

Restrictions on access to and/or dissemination of information are also regulated by the law On State Secrets, the governmental edict of 05.12.1991 No. 35 On the List of Types of Information that can not be Classified as Commercial Secrets, and a number of other acts (17).

The law On State Secrets, adopted in 1993, defines a state secret as

"...information protected by the state in the fields of its military, foreign policy, economic, intelligence, counter-intelligence, and criminal investigation activities, the dissemination whereof may result in damage to the security of the Russian Federation" (2).

The law determines the types of information that can be classified as state secrets, such as information on the national economy, research, or technology of great economic or military importance related to the provision of state security (5(2)).

Similarly defined is the range of types of information that can not be classified as state secrets, followed by the statement that

"Officials having made a decision to classify such information as a state secret... are subject to responsibility according to criminal, administrative or disciplinary regulations, depending upon the physical or moral damage caused to the society, state, or citizens. Citizens have the right to appeal against such actions in court" (7).

In addition, the law On Commercial Secrets is currently in preparation. Public hearings were held in October 1994 (Gerasimov 1994).

Although legally required, the access of citizens to information is still quite often considered by officials to be a less important problem compared to information exchange between agencies and authorities of various levels. This is also supported in practice by regulations and guidelines which govern the implementation of legislative acts and state policy. Regulations defining concrete mechanisms and procedures for the implementation of rights to information are still absent.

Other acts specifically devoted to information are the laws On the Legal Protection of Microcircuit Topologies, On the Provision of the Uniformity of Measurements, On the Responsibility for Violating the Order of Statistical Reporting, On the Obligatory Deposition of Documents' Copies, Principles of Legislation on Archive Fund and Archives. Among the acts in preparation are the federal laws On Information Support of Economic Development and Business, On Statistical Information, On Legal Information, On Research and Engineering Information, On Personal Data, On Participation in International Information Exchange and on Supervision over the Export of Information Products (Volokitin and Kopylov 1994). Underlying lower-level regulations are also under consideration. In addition to the acts already mentioned, information activities are regulated by selected chapters of other acts not directly devoted to information. These are other general laws, such as the laws On Security, On Citizenship, On Property, On Standardisation, On Certification, as well as acts devoted to the status and/or activities of certain state agencies involved in managing information resources (see also Section 3.4).

In spite of the introduction of an impressive number of acts, the practical treatment of conflicts related to information, as mentioned before, still lacks guidelines and corresponding experience. For instance, changes are yet to be made to the Civil, Administrative and Criminal Codes, which will define sanctions for infringement of information legislation.

The elaboration of information legislation is carried out and co-ordinated by the Committee on Information Policy and Communications of the State Duma. The protection of governmental and presidential information and communication systems as well as the collection and analysis of special information for top-level authorities are performed by the Agency for Governmental Communications. Decision-making at the presidential level is supported by a system of information services, including the Presidential Analytical Centres.

The State Technical Commission, with its 20-year experience of protecting state secrets from foreign intelligence services, has been charged with implementing the functions of an Inter-Agency Commission for the Protection of State Secrets as required by the law On State Secrets. The commission unites 19 principal agencies concerned with state secrets (Balyberdin 1994). Another body advising on the issues of state secrets is the Inter-Agency Commission on Informational Safety of the Presidential Security Council. It is responsible for elaborating the state policy in the field of information safety (Balyberdin 1994, Kurilo and Streltsov 1994).

The Inter-Agency Commission on Protection of Intellectual Property was formed in 1995 on the initiative of the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Culture, the Committee for Patents and other agencies.

The Committee for Statistics bears the central responsibility for the nation-wide collection of socio-economic information and its regular delivery to authorities at all levels. Sectoral agencies manage their own information resources and perform information functions according to their mandates. Owing to the lack of federal co-ordination of information management, each agency basically follows its own sectoral information policy (Melyukhin 1993).

To create a central co-ordination mechanism, the Committee for Informatisation was established in 1993 and acquired a more solid status in 1994 (Agapov 1995a). Among its recent activities is the development of a concept for the federal programme Informatisation of Russia, aimed at the overall co-ordination and harmonisation of on-going activities as well as at providing the necessary financial, legal and organisational basis (Golubkov 1994, Kurnosov 1994) (18). Extensive collaboration between the committee and regional and international organisations such as UNESCO, the OECD and the CEC is under way (Korchagin and Fontanov 1994).

Registration of databases and the corresponding collection of metainformation are carried out by the Agency for Governmental Communications, the Agency for Legal Protection of Computer Programs, Databases, and Microcircuit Topologies attached to the Committee for Patents, and the InformRegister Centre attached to the Committee for Informatisation. The InformRegister Centre is the leading institution collecting metainformation about databases produced at state expense. The International Bureau for Information and Telecommunications is a private company primarily gathering information on private and/or commercially available databases. The Russian Chamber of Commerce collects and updates information about existing telecommunications.

Currently approximately 12,000 enterprises, of which 9,000 are state-owned, have formally declared that some of their activities are related to information systems and processes (Golubkov 1994). Over 400-500 new information centres of various kinds and purposes were established in 1989-91. Most of them now offer business information on a commercial basis, partly making use of data-sets initially created at major state-owned information institutions. At the same time in the state sector personnel involved in information support has decreased in the past few years by 50-70% (Antopolskiy and Nosikov 1995).

On the sub-national level information activities are partly co-ordinated by local authorities, who develop territorial information projects and establish systems for information analysis. By the beginning of 1994, local information systems and services had been established in most of the Russian territories (Melyukhin 1994b). A recent trend is that information centres are also created on the sub-territorial level -- down to districts, cities and towns (19). Over 20 agreements between the Committee for Informatisation and the territories have been signed to form a basis of information systems on the sub-national level (Golubkov 1994). About 30 centres are to be created under the federal programme Informatisation of Russia, and a pilot project has already been implemented (Kurnosov 1994).

Institutionally the status of territorial bodies of information analysis at present varies from small groups which support the needs of local authorities to large well-established organisations. It is not unlikely that this system in the future will in part withdraw certain functions from the presently operational local level of the State Committee for Statistics (Melyukhin 1994b).The current problems of the territorial analytical services are the absence of unified analytical methodologies, compatible technologies and telecommunications. Another observed problem is that the amount of interpreted information is relatively small compared to the amount of raw data which sometimes already overload decision-makers. Thus there is growing demand for qualified staff in the fields of sociological, economic and political analysis (Melyukhin 1994a).

A new development in the field of sub-national information systems is the concept of a Unified System of State Cadastres (Manoshkin 1995), which will contain information on various aspects of local development, including social and economic statistics, engineering infrastructure, housing, utilities, communications, natural resources and the environment (more about the latter components is presented in Section 3.2). Experiments in this direction are being carried out in Moscow as well as in the Nizhny Novgorod, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk and Tumen oblasts (Lisitsyn and Monastyrskaya 1994).

Besides centres attached to local authorities, other networks of information centres exist or are being created at the sub-national level, including the networks of the Russian Chamber of Commerce, the State Committee for Industrial Policy, and the Agency for Governmental Communications (Kedrovskiy 1994b).

Information resources in Russia are located within various state-funded information systems, research institutions and private companies. For the last 3 to 4 years the national information market has become relatively well developed. Digital information of nation-wide interest generated by many institutions can, with a very high degree of likelihood, be found in one of numerous information systems. Over 250 organisations specialise in information brokerage (Antopolskiy and Nosikov 1995).

Enormous amounts of information, however, are still stored on paper. The transfer of these data into digital form would require substantial time and labour input. The problems with regard to the production and publishing of paper information products are often associated with the insufficient capacities and quality standards of the paper industry and book publishing as well as with the weak enforcement of copyright law. The latter also refers to digital products (Andreeva 1995).

The number of Russian databases (20) may be as large as 25,000-30,000 by expert estimates. Of this number 75% are supposed to be held either in Moscow or in St. Petersburg The number of databases registered (partly on a self-reporting basis) by the InformRegister centre reached over 10,000 in 1994, with about 30% located in Moscow or in the Moscow Region (21). Only 16% of the known databases are remotely accessible. The largest proportion of existing databases contain data on business, science and engineering. Analysis of the current dynamics of subjects covered by databases discloses that the proportion of reference and legal databases has the highest growth rate, that databases on social studies and multiple subjects have a decreasing share, and that the proportion of databases on business, arts, natural sciences, engineering, and medicine remains constant. The total number of database holders is of the order of 10,000, 70% of which are state-owned enterprises.

The Russian authorities and state agencies are generally reluctant to purchase, use or finance databases produced in the private sector (Antopolskiy and Nosikov 1995). However, the redistribution of responsibilities for information product and services in favour of the private sector is officially recognised as one of the important goals of the national information policy (Golubkov 1994).

A frequent problem with existing digital databases is that many of them are available only in Russian, although 14 foreign languages are known to be used in various Russian databases and translation into European languages is under way for the most popular data-sets. The formats and classifications used often do not correspond to those internationally accepted (22). Quite often the overall quality of a product is simply insufficient to match the strict requirements of international users. This explains the relatively low level of international activity of the Russian database community. Nowadays national enterprises are losing control even over the internal market, as the most paying sectors of economy (e.g. banking and insurance) are becoming increasingly dominated by international competitors.

The total number of telecommunication systems (23) for data transfer in Russia approaches 250, with 50-60 systems actively operational. Among the leading Russian and joint companies operating telecommunications are RelCom, SPRINT, RosNet, Sovam-Teleport, IASNet, SITEC, RosPac, and InfoTel. There is strong competition between telecommunication operators. In 1994 the number of cities served by hosts of 5 or more different systems exceeded 50. The largest number of networks is represented in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk. The list of cities where the number of networks is smaller, but still exceeding 5-6, includes Archangel, Barnaul, Khabarovsk, Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Krasnodar, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Tver, Tumen, Vladivostok, Volgograd, and Voronezh. The total number of network hosts exceeds 600 in more than 200 Russian cities and towns. This would be enough to connect over 10,000 organisations with 300,000 users, which could equal 10-20% of the computer users in the country (REFIA 1994). In Moscow telecommunications provide on-line access to at least 40 hosts holding over 600 databases. Altogether more than 200 hosts in Russia offer various database access services. Access to thousands of international databases is provided via connection to international networks, such as INTERNET, BITNET, EUNET, MCI-mail, CompuServ, NSFnet, DATEX-P, ADC, SPRINT-INT, AT&T, DATAPAC, and the GLASNET.

The principal problem for many interested users today is not physical access to telecommunications, but the data traffic and channel-rent fairs as well as the high cost of the required hardware and software. Another problem is that the quality of telecommunications on the local level is still unsatisfactory, so that these systems cannot always be reliably used for transferring important information. Besides, high enough transfer rates cannot be maintained at all times, so that the usual rate even in main lines is 2,400-9,600 bps (24). Inability to transfer data between different networks due to incompatibility of hardware and protocols is not uncommon.

In seeking for an alternative, growing attention has been paid to teletext technology, which has been in operation in Russia since 1993, and which is currently employed by a number of federal agencies as well as private companies. At present almost the whole territory of the country, as well as most countries of the CIS and Western Europe, parts of Canada, the USA and Australia, are accessible for teletext transmission from Moscow (Melyukhin et al. 1994).

The prospects of data distribution are also associated with the CD-ROM technology, which is a rapidly growing sector in Russia. Although the variety of CD-ROMs containing databases is still small (about 30 at the end of 1994), the sales data for CD-ROM drives suggest that the potential current capacity of the Russian market could be as high as 100,000 disks (Sedyakin 1994).

Metainformation remains one of the bottlenecks in obtaining data, although some metainformation and/or meta-knowledge products are available from specialised organisations (see above and Appendix 2) or, in some cases, from state agencies.

A limiting factor for many users is the cost of data, which can be high both at private companies and state-owned institutions. The high cost of data may in practice make it impossible to implement the open access to information required by law. It is also not uncommon that state institutions object to sharing their data or try to charge the users, even if free access to the data must be provided in theory. The evaluation of the cost of information is a very complicated and controversial issue, and so far it has found a more or less satisfactory solution only in the private sector, in the fields of financial, economic and legal information trade. The cost of data which are less attractive for private market players but are more socially significant involves the problem of trade-off between the cost of production and systems maintenance and the availability of information. Nonetheless, the absence of centralised financial support for information services make further introduction of market-oriented relations into information business, with all the related advantages and disadvantages, the most realistic prospect.


(14) The term 'informatisation' is used in the text in an attempt to provide equivalent to the Russian term 'informatizatsiya' which is not formally defined in standard Russian and has only recently been introduced from technical literature. In general, the term refers to establishing, maintaining and improving the practices in the fields of production, storage, analysis and distribution of information, especially in digital form.

(15) The law is intended to serve as a basic act regulating processes related to products (analogue or digital) which contain data, rather than to the data themselves. The latter is regulated by the law On Copyright and Related Rights.

(16) According to the law, the certification of information systems and products is carried out on a voluntary basis. On the other hand, certification and licensing are required for handling confidential or personal data or for designing corresponding systems and frameworks. This may enable strong centralised control over such activities. The recent orders to license all information protection technology through the Agency for Governmental Communications show that such concerns may be well-founded.

(17) Altogether a few dozen regulations of various levels currently govern the protection of state secrets (Savin 1995).

(18) One problem with the nation-wide development of information processes, however, is related to the fact that the federal information policies tend to focus on technology rather than on the supporting of collection, interpretation and proper use of information. In other words, on the national level there is often a lack of balance between the technology framework and its content in favour of the former (Kedrovskiy 1994b).

(19) The second work meeting of local analytical centres in October 1994 brought together 150 participants from 71 territories and cities (Melyukhin 1994b).

(20) The overall status of Russian databases is presented primarily based on the national report Automated Information Resources: Status and Trends prepared in 1994 by the Committee for Informatisation, as summarised in (Antopolskiy and Nosikov 1995), and on data from (Andreeva 1994).

(21) However, it is likely that the institutions responsible for database registration are unable to get the appropriate information on many databases currently available in the territories, while local database holders do not hurry to register their products. On the other hand it is known that some of the registered databases have been declared only and do not constitute complete products.

(22) The Committee for Standardisation currently carries out a number of internationally-accredited certification programmes, some of which are related to information technology. Database and information product certification is under way and will be expanded (Efimov 1994).

(23) The sources for the data on telecommunication systems are (MBIT and TPP RF 1994, REFIA 1994).

(24) Estimates suggest that the cost of radical modernisation of the Russian telecommunications may approach US$ 15 million (Melyukhin et al. 1994).

SOURCE: Environmental Information Systems in the Russian Federation -- Assessment Report UNEP/GRID-Arendal 1995