Moscow officials are set to pull the plug on a multimillion-dollar deal with US computing giant Microsoft, and instead buy the rights to a Russian-made suite of programs for employees of the country’s nuclear safety regulator.
On Wednesday, the Vedomosti newspaper reported that a source from the state atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, confirmed it had completed a tender process to keep its computers ticking over. Management is said to have handed the contract to provide software for 87 of its separate subsidiaries to Russian developer MyOffice. The deal, commentators say, is worth 200 million rubles ($2.7 million), although the maximum value of the contract could be far higher.
The state agency had reportedly previously explored the prospect of acquiring Microsoft’s programs at a total cost of two billion rubles (nearly $30 million). However, the requirement to secure a license from the US Department of Commerce for the sale of technology to some specific foreign entities was said to have held up the deal.
Russia is one of a few nations in the world with widely-used domestic equivalents to rival Western tech giants. Social media sites like VKontakte are popular among young users, while Mail.ru remains one of the most widespread email hosting services. The Yandex group, which came to prominence with its search engine, operates everything from food deliveries to chauffeured cars.
In recent months, a wave of privacy concerns over the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger service led to an exodus of users to other chat platforms, including Telegram, founded in Russia in 2013 by St. Petersburg entrepreneur Pavel Durov.
Moscow has also moved to limit its reliance on internet networks and infrastructure based outside the country, having introduced a bill ordering the development of a ‘sovereign internet’ that could function autonomously in emergencies. While officials say it is a necessary step to protect essential services, some activists have said it paves the way to censorship of online content.
Russian authorities have repeatedly denied that the system would be anything other than a contingency. Speaking at his annual press conference in December, President Vladimir Putin said that “free internet and sovereign internet are not mutually exclusive concepts.”
“The law is aimed only to prevent negative consequences of being potentially cut off from the global web, which controls are located primarily abroad,” he added.
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