After tour, Medvedev says he wants Russia to create its own version of Silicon Valley

By Brooke Donald, AP
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Medvedev: New technologies would open access

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev toured Silicon Valley to see “the origins of success,” and came away expressing optimism that his country will also be able to adopt a high-tech economy that would give everyone a chance to get ahead.

His visit Wednesday to the high-tech capital was bolstered by an announcement by Cisco Systems Inc. that it would invest $1 billion over 10 years to help foster high-tech innovation in Russia.

The Russian leader is on a U.S. tour that will eventually take him to Washington for meetings with President Barack Obama.

He said he came to Silicon Valley to “see with my own eyes the origins of success.”

Medvedev has said he wants to bring more high-tech innovation to Russia’s oil-dependent economy, and create the country’s own Silicon Valley outside Moscow.

“Russia is trying to become an open country,” he said during a speech at Stanford University, the last stop on his visit. “Open for investment, for trade, for joint projects in any sector of public life, and of course in economics.”

The president has faced criticism that no matter how strong his desire to bring new technologies, business and innovation into Russia, the country’s political and economic systems remain too corrupt for outsiders’ comfort.

But on Wednesday, while acknowledging the challenges, he remained confident that with the right partnerships and attitude, his country would succeed.

“In Russia, we have money, and in a number of cases, big money. But we don’t have Silicon Valley. That’s why this money should be spent correctly. It should be given to the right hands and there should be correct rules,” he said.

Medvedev kicked off his high-tech tour in a meeting with Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the co-founders of Twitter, the popular microblogging site.

At Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, Medvedev set up a Twitter account under the name “KremlinRussia” and sent his first tweet.

The debut was in Russian: “Hello everyone. I am now in Twitter, and this is my first message.”

During his speech, Medvedev listed 10 points he believes will pave the way for Russia’s success, including reforming the nation’s health care and education systems, and creating a more reliable court system and stronger financial system.

His audience at Stanford included former Secretary of States George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice, both fellows at the university’s Hoover Institution.

In a private meeting before the speech with Shultz, Rice, Stanford Provost John Etchemendy and others, Medvedev spoke candidly about some of the challenges facing Russia.

He said Russia must try to combat the problem of so-called “brain drain” when young minds leave the country for opportunities elsewhere.

“If young people encounter better conditions abroad, it means we failed to do something and they leave. Our task is to make sure we are competitive,” he said, according to quotes provided by the Stanford News Service, which was given access to the meeting.

He also acknowledged a problem with getting investments.

“Unfortunately for us, venture capitalism is not going so well so far. No one wants to run the risk. It’s a problem of culture, as Steve Jobs told me today. We need to change the mentality pattern on this,” he said.

As part of his Silicon Valley tour, Medvedev met earlier Wednesday with Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs in Cupertino.

In four months the Kremlin has lavished an “innograd” — or innovation city — project with budget allocations of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Analysts have warned, however, that without genuine reform of Russia’s tremendous state machine, a mega-project like Skolkovo will be doomed.

Medvedev said, in the end, the project will depend on the will of the people and businesses.

“If you are ready to help in this project, I’m sure it has all the chances to be implemented,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Medvedev met with Cisco CEO John Chambers at the company’s San Jose headquarters, where Cisco said it plans to establish a physical presence in Skolkovo and set up a second global headquarters for its emerging technologies group there.

“We’re very honored to commit to your dream,” Chambers said as the men signed a memorandum of understanding, with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other guests looking on.

Associated Press writer Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this report.

will not be displayed