Medvedev Pushes for Paperless Government

President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday scolded the government for dragging its heels on introducing electronic filing and storage procedures aimed at reducing the consumption of paper.

Russia ranked 60th in a 2008 UN survey of world governments' e-government readiness, placing it below Costa Rica and above South Africa, according to materials distributed by the Kremlin press service. Sweden ranked first in the survey.

"Tons of paper are used every month just for sending rules and regulations to state agencies," Medvedev said in the Kremlin on Thursday during a meeting on developing the country's information society. "No one does this any more. We're just rich; we have lots of wood and plenty of paper."

Medvedev has made developing an "innovative economy" a priority of his presidency in an attempt to wean the country from its dependence on exports of natural resources such as oil, natural gas and metals. To show his leadership on the issue, the president has taken symbolic steps such as starting a video blog on the Kremlin's web site.

While Russia boasts engineers and software specialists who earn more than $1 billion a year exporting their wares, the country is struggling to break into the top tier of high-tech countries, Medvedev said.

Russians cannot contact government agencies electronically, Medvedev said. A single portal for federal and municipal agencies, scheduled for a Jan. 1 launch, is still on the drawing board, he said.