War in Ukraine: The Kremlin rids the computer scientists of the military before their massive march from the country | Technology
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Tens of thousands of computer engineers are leaving Russia as spare parts for its telecommunications networks run out and could begin to fail as early as the summer. This is the panorama drawn by the sector in the face of the sanctions imposed by the West after the start of the war against Ukraine. In response, the Kremlin has offered programmers not to do compulsory military service, milli, and negotiates with the technological giants a series of aids to close the brain drain. The next few months will be key for the industry.
Between 50,000 and 70,000 workers in the telecommunications sector left Russia in the first weeks of the war and another 100,000 are expected to do so in April once they have reorganized their bank accounts to make transfers abroad -Visa and Mastercard no longer operate in the country – and normalize the prices of flights, most of them blocked with Europe due to sanctions.
These estimates were offered to parliament on March 22 by the president of the Russian Electronic Communications Association, Sergei Glupotarenko, who advocated creating a sectoral union and promoting the relocation of workers to friendly countries until the situation calms down. . “For example, to Armenia, Kazakhstan or China. Let’s agree with them, let’s propose some rules for their relocation there”, he told a committee for information technologies of the State Duma.
Natalia Kasperski, founder of the technological giant InfoWatch and owner of the antivirus to which her surname gives her name, acknowledged at the same meeting that there has been a “mass flight” of engineers after the war began, although she believes it is possible to convince them to return. “All this does not depend on a material factor, but on the subtle mentality of our specialists. They are young, they are connected in many ways with the West, they work with Western software, and this breakdown of the system made them tremble,” said the businesswoman, who advocated propaganda and a public relations campaign to convince them that new opportunities are opening up in the country.
Achieving it seems difficult in the face of the storm that can be seen on the near horizon, as predicted by the sector itself. The Union of Telecommunications Entrepreneurs and Industries of Russia warns that its infrastructure will begin to fail from the summer, as companies only have replacements for their electronic equipment “for four or six months,” according to a report to which it had access the daily Kommersant.
Not only the West refuses to deliver parts to Russian companies, but also China. According to the organization, the world’s largest telecommunications and electronics equipment manufacturers have suspended the shipment of supplies, which affects two-thirds of the networks manufactured with them, and Chinese firms have joined the boycott because some components of their equipment are American made or designed.
The sector, which also pays a premium for the parts it can acquire due to the high demand and lack of foreign currency, has asked the Kremlin for aid and tax deductions. Meanwhile, the government is also patching up the loss of workers. Military service is compulsory in Russia between the ages of 18 and 27, and now at the beginning of April a new conscription of conscripts is due, the first since the war began. The law prohibits sending someone who does military service to the front unless they sign an employment contract with the armed forces, so the exemption granted from now on to young programmers seems more like a help to companies that have been left behind than a incentive to workers.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed this week the postponement of the “military” for those under 27 years of age who have completed higher education and have been working in technology companies for at least a year, as well as for unemployed specialists who have one year of work experience and at least one course.
This exemption from compulsory military service will apply in total to more than 60 disciplines. In addition to computer science, these include mathematics, cartography, electronics, robotics, and aeronautical and naval engineering.
In addition, in his fight against sanctions, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced on Wednesday that the Government will allow “parallel imports” without the permission of brand owners, while President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that prohibits state agencies from using foreign software in critical infrastructure from the year 2025.
For their part, some technology giants such as Yándex (the Russian alternative to Google), the e-commerce companies Wildberries and Ozon (the national version of Amazon) and other firms have also claimed tax breaks for the thousands of workers they have temporarily relocated to allied countries. Many of these companies have already moved their employees to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia.
The brain drain is a headache for Russia. This week the Public News Service held a round table with several experts entitled ‘How to stop the flight of telecommunications specialists’. “Before, 100,000 left over the course of a year, now more have left in a month,” warned Evgueni Mitrofanov, head of the Department of Digital Technologies at the Moscow State University of Humanities and Economics. In addition to the instability, the expert warned of the collapse of wages in the ruble exchange, and highlighted that after the pandemic, many worked remotely, “which has facilitated their relocation.”
Against this, the deputy chairman of the Duma Information Committee, Oleg Matvyeichev, stated that this leak “is related to the radical change in the way of life. If with Western corporations everything revolved like the planets around the Sun, and suddenly they hear that there is a global conflict and Russia will be isolated, computer scientists panic. Many will be back in a couple of months.”
In another debate on the same channel, the demographer and contributor to numerous media outlets Alexei Raksha warned that reindustrializing the country and substituting foreign products, both software What hardware“it will be much more difficult than 30 years ago” for two reasons: there are fewer young people than before and “colossal investments” and very long-term planning will be needed.
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