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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IT Companies Unite To Lobby for Sector

A who's who of IT players is coming together to create an industry organization to lobby the government and promote the growth of information and technology in Russia.

The noncommercial group's stated tasks range from battling software piracy and easing export restrictions to creating jobs at home, attracting investment and marketing the Russian name abroad. It even is considering acting as an arbitrator to help settle disputes between member companies.

"There are a lot of things going on in IT, and there will be even more developments this year and next," said Alexei Navolokin, country manager for U.S. company Intel. "So we should understand how to work together."

Thirty-five companies took the first steps by creating an "initiative group" last June, which includes industry giants Microsoft and IBM and Russian companies TopS and Information Business Systems. Since then the group has conducted a few brainstorming sessions and on Monday sent out a formal appeal to others in the industry, laying out the general goals and purposes of the organization, which is so far nameless.

More than 100 companies -- big and small, domestic and foreign, producers and vendors, hardware and software, Moscow-based and regional -- are expected to sign up. "At this stage we're inviting every local IT company to join," Navolokin said. Organizers hope to legally establish the group in the fourth quarter of this year.

One of their greatest initial challenges, Navolokin said, will be consolidating the various views and interests of different companies. They still don't know the price of membership fees or whether there will be one president or three, saying only that the structure should be as "democratic" as possible.

The group wants to ease communication with the government, which in the past year seems to have taken a greater interest in promoting technology and electronic business, especially through its multi-million dollar, eight-year development program "E-Russia."

President Vladimir Putin summoned the cream of the industry to a meeting in April to talk policy, and E-Russia itself includes computerizing many bureaucratic activities.

"The government has decided that oil export is not the only business for the future of the country," said Sergei Andreyev, general director of ABBYY Software.

Organizers say the government will have a much easier time absorbing the suggestions of IT businesses if there is one group to consult with.

"It definitely seems that governmental structures are now interested in helping us. And this means we have to help them to help us," said Andreyev.