Arkhangelsk Conference Addresses Development of Digital Technologies and Human Resources in the Arctic

Participants in the conference ‘National Megaproject in the Arctic: Staffing and Scientific Support‘ discussed the creation of a digital environment in the Arctic, how to modernize educational programmes, and the needs of the Arctic regions for staffing. The event took place on 10-11 November in Arkhangelsk at Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov (NArFU) with the support of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science as part of the plan of events for Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021-2023, which are being organized by the Roscongress Foundation.

National megaproject in the arctic: staffing and scientific support

Ensuring the sustainable socioeconomic development of the Arctic is one of the key focuses of Russian policy. As part of the work to this end, the Arctic today is becoming a sort of laboratory for testing promising technologies and smart solutions. In turn, this requires the existence of the appropriate digital environment, which implies the widespread introduction of automation, robotic technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and work with big data. These concepts are becoming integral components for developing activities in a wide range of areas from education to the development of urban infrastructure,” said Nikolay Korchunov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Arctic Senior Officials.

Deputy Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic Anatoly Bobrakov noted that in the current environment the Arctic as a whole and the Northern Sea Route in particular offer a fundamental opportunity to ensure the growth of the Russian economy and the social development of the entire country. In terms of personnel, the Russian North most of all needs engineers and IT specialists, he said.

Today, more than 530 projects are being implemented under preferential conditions in advanced special economic zones in the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation. Total private investment amounts to more than RUB 1 trillion. More than 28,000 jobs will be created, including at least 6,000 high-performance jobs. These are precisely the jobs that require people who are number-savvy. These are people who must have a level of education that enables them to work with high-tech equipment and deal with engineering and programming. I believe the Arctic is the best place to become an engineer or a programmer,” Bobrakov said.

Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Andrey Omelchuk said personnel for the Arctic should above all be trained in the North: people who train in the harsh Arctic environment better understand the problems of Russia’s Arctic zone. However, the staffing needs of the Russian Arctic extend way beyond the capabilities of Arctic universities. In this context, it is paramount to consolidate research groups that deal with the development of the Russian Arctic zone, he said.

In the near future, together with the Rosatom Corporation, we will discuss ways to fund and consolidate Arctic science. We believe it is essential to unite researchers who work on the Arctic within a single framework,” Omelchuk said.

The Far East and the Arctic Development Corporation (FEADC) is analysing and forecasting the staffing needs of Russia’s Arctic regions. FEADC First Deputy General Director for Social Development Elvira Nurgaliyeva said the Arctic zone’s staffing can be divided into three areas: working professions, special new and rare professions, as well as managerial personnel. At the same time, sociological surveys of residents of the Arctic regions show that people do not simply want a job, but an opportunity for self-fulfilment.

The Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation is the world’s largest special tax regime and special development zone. It’s a unique territory in terms of opportunities for business development. Companies that have not yet signed an investment agreement, but see the promise of working in the Arctic over the period until 2035, require 180,000 new jobs. This is a special challenge for the Arctic,” Nurgaliyeva said.

The FEADC, along with the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic and the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, is working on adapting educational programmes based on the forecasts of companies’ further staffing demands, she said.

During the conference, the participants learned about the Digital Arctic IT Park that is being set up at NArFU. NArFU Rector Yelena Kudryashova said the technological solutions that will be developed at the IT park will become a cornerstone of domestic software products and developments. The IT park is being built to create an interregional IT ecosystem in the Arctic in order to provide the local population with digital expertise, train personnel, and implement digital economy projects to ensure Russia’s technological sovereignty. At present, the IT park already includes seven laboratories for robotics and automation, eight laboratories for networks, cybersecurity, web development, and machine learning, as well as rooms for coworking and project work. The park is being created jointly by NArFU and the Arkhangelsk Region Government.

The conference programme also included thematic sections and roundtables on various aspects of the development of the Arctic and digital technologies in the Far North. In particular, experts discussed information security in the digital economy, the customization of personnel training for the Arctic region, the monitoring of the labour market, as well as the transformation of urban spaces and robotics. The conference participants viewed an exhibition dedicated to digital technologies for the development of the Northern Sea Route. The Rostec State Corporation and AFK Sistema also presented their developments. The conference was attended by representatives of federal and regional agencies, CEOs of IT companies and several specialized organizations, as well as leading experts and representatives of the scientific community.

The programme also featured cybersport and information security competitions, as well as the Sports Programming and Activity Championship for schoolchildren. Master class participants learned the basics of cryptography and the Internet of Things, how to use neural networks, how to develop mobile applications, and control a quadrocopter.

A priority of Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council is to ensure responsible governance for the sustainable development of the Arctic, which is largely determined by the quality of human capital. By developing measures to support the population of the North, including Indigenous peoples, Russia is helping to promote projects and initiatives to digitalize remote Arctic villages and reindeer herding farms by improving the reliability and efficiency of satellite navigation systems in the Arctic.

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