Is Russia the Next Big Technology Leader? William Saito Weighs in

Technology is rapidly changing the structure of family life, and this is causing the average home to become the silent battleground of global corporations. How is this possible? Through the purchase and recognition of product brands. Indisputably, one of the most hotly sought-after grounds for national recognition is through the  prominence of technology in the household. From the type of television that sits at the focal point of the living room to the type of refrigerator that keeps food cold, recognizable home technology brands are no longer limited to Western ingenuity. Brands like GE and Apple of the United States are well-known, but other brands — like Toshiba and Hitachi of  Japan, Samsung of South Korea, and Huawei of China are all recognized for their contributions to global well-being. In fact, they are quickly becoming better rated for technological ingenuity than many of the most beloved American brands.

But there’s one world power that sticks out in its lack of technological prominence – Russia. Is there a reason for this? Many arguments could be made, but the point is left that for such a well-to-do nation, there is little to be said about its recent technology enhancements. Russia is known for Kaspersky, the well-known security software brand, but that is about it. Unfortunately for Kaspersky, the United States Department of Homeland Security came out against the software brand in late 2017, causing other large brands to follow suit. The result? Kaspersky sales among American users plummeted. But Russia has a long and successful history of technological advances, and the recent efforts on Russia’s part to prove this have paid off.

A lot can be said about the technological advancements that Russia has made over the past 200 years, especially when it comes to founding science. From the invention of the radio, to the completion of the periodic table, to the first manned flight into space, Russian technology has been silently influencing the advance of technology since technology could be claimed as a scientific field.  Still, that hasn’t stopped world powers from letting politics influence the advancement of science.

Since the cold war, Russian presidents, including Vladimir Putin, have been trying to change that. One of the core ways that this is currently being achieved is through the analysis and evaluation of Russian technology by reputable technology figureheads. For the brief period that Dmitry Medvedev served as Russian president from 2008-2012, Japanese-American innovator William Saito sought to bridge a perceived gap between the rest of the world and Russia when it came to technological innovation. William Saito discusses this extensively in his memoir, noting one of his initial meetings with a world leader as a consultant. Together with the CEOs of Google, Apple, Twitter, and Cisco, among others, William Saito discussed the future of Russian technology.

“The government there has become acutely aware that their economy is hugely dependent on the energy sector, mostly oil and gas,” William Saito said in chapter 16 of his biographyAn Unprogrammed Life: Adventures of an Incurable Entrepreneur. So, for Russia, technology would need to focus on these factors to be successful. Investments needed to be made, but the questions regarding this focused around when, how, and where to install these investments. Using his knowledge brought from global tech innovation, and especially with regards to his policy-driven tech innovation, William Saito sought to help Russia understand its place in the global tech revolution.

Discussed at this meeting, among other things, was what William Saito and the other Silicon Valley tech innovators thought were the main successes of Silicon Valley. While discussions ranged from specifics to general interactions with global companies, the message was clear – Russia had to expand its reach and find ways to fund startups and contribute to national architecture that furthered technological pursuits. After these talks, one of Russia’s largest technology corporations, Renovo, invited William Saito to Russia to further discussion. Eventually, Slovolko was born, and though it has been a slow-moving project, a recent venture fund investment has lead to its rapid growth. Even Google signed on as an advisor.

The future of Russian Technology, Saito argues, comes from thinking creatively. As he did when he worked with the United States government and the Japanese governments, changes in the technological framework came from identifying problems and offering solutions. Because Russia is known for its cybersecurity and depends on oil and gas, tech innovation would come from one of those realms.

Goldman Sachs also spoke out about Russian innovation recently. Like William Saito, they are confident that Russia will become a global leader in technology. They have no doubt that the technology being produced by Russia’s leaders in technology is up-to-par with the Asian and American technology brands that are household names. The only difference, Goldman Sachs’ Vyacheslav Degtyarev said of the United States in a recent Forbes article, is that other countries are paying attention to Russian innovation.  While the United States keeps up a decades-long Cold War by ignoring Russian technological advancement, it is simultaneously casting a blind eye toward emerging technology.

Russia is not without its faults in its own successes, however. Recent criticism toward the way that it treats its innovators, doing everything from discrediting truly out-of-the ordinary ideas to jailing green technology entrepreneurs like Dmitri Trubitsyn and spinning tales about the safety of his campaigns. With green energy being one of the most hotly contested technological advancements, Russia is truly playing with fire on this topic – they have the potential to lead the world in green technology, but this controversy is playing itself off as a setback. And police raids of Dimitri Trubitsyn’s company are just one in a slew of police raids that have more to do with political gain than with technological gain.

Technology only advances through keeping its sights on its competition. Surely this was the case with notable scientists like Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison, and this remains the case with technology innovators like Tim Cook and Elon Musk. While this also leads to trends in technology, like TouchId a few years ago and now the race for facial recognition on personal devices, it is also necessary to innovation. Without a strict examination of the market competition, innovation would not be nearly as rapid as it has been over the past 150 years.

Still, overcoming a political stigma is one of the biggest hurdles that Russian technology innovators have in their path for many reasons. For almost a century, the whole of Russia has been denigrated for politics that the population generally not have control over. This has lead to great minds, like Kaspersky Labs, in most recent history, being subject to the stigma of national political stances. Until now, this has left their foundational scientific achievements mostly out of the eye of the Western public. But Russian Science and technology has a lot to teach Western innovators, and unless they listen, countries like America could end up falling well behind the Russians by casting a blind eye to competition.

Connect with William Saito on Huffington Post and Linkedin

Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.

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