Conflict and Leadership
Digital Non-Alignment: How to Avoid Bipolarity in the Digital World
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On September 23 the Valdai Club held an expert discussion, titled “Open Source: Benefits of the Digital Non-Aligned Movement”, during which the new Report “Digital Realpolitik: Sovereignty, Alliances and Non-Alignment in the 21st Century” was presented.

MGIMO professor Andrey Bezrukov, co-author of the report, delivered a speech where he called the phenomenon of digitalisation a transition to a new model for the development of society and the economy. He noted that a ‘war of platforms and standards’ is starting now: The world is divided into competing techno-economic blocs. So far, two such blocs are emerging - an Anglo-Saxon one and a Chinese one. Neither of them is ready to let the other into their critical infrastructure, which in such conditions becomes a factor of sovereignty.

Mikhail Mamonov, Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation (2018-2020) and co-author of the report, analysed the opportunities that are opening up for Russia against this background. According to him, there is a group of countries that do not want to fully join one of the two blocs, which would entail risking their own sovereignty, but they are also not ready to confront the blocs, and at the same time do not have the resources to create their own solutions. To such countries Russia could offer open source solutions, creating a kind of digital non-aligned movement that avoids the bipolarisation of the digital world.

Maxim Parshin, Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation, pointed out that the state cannot and should not play a dominant role in the development of projects based on open source, but it is extremely interested in promoting them. For the development of open source at the moment, two directions have been chosen - stimulating the participation of Russian developers in global projects and creating a national code repository.

Rashid Ismailov, President of VimpelCom PJSC, Russian candidate for the post of Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union, said that the new digital world, in fact, is arranged in the same way as the old one, remaining a field of competition for the same political, economic and ideological forces. At the same time, information and computer technologies now have about the same impact on the world that nuclear and missile technologies once had in the past, serving as a measure of sovereignty. This gives rise to the phenomena of "technological fencing" and techno-nationalism, which contradict trends towards globalisation. The solution of this contradiction can be facilitated by the ‘third way’ proposed by Russia and a global agenda in the field of standards.

“Now we see that today almost all new challenges are associated with digital technologies,” says Oleg Shakirov, PIR Center consultant and expert at the Russian International Affairs Council. This also applies to the foreign policy sphere. Russia was one of the first to react to the digital revolution in international relations, he recalled, pointing to two reports adopted by the UN this year at the initiative of Moscow. So far, this cannot be called a full-fledged success, but progress in the field of interstate relations based on the agreements reached within the UN framework is already noticeable.