High price technologies – cost of websites for Russian state departments 

High price technologies – cost of websites for Russian state departments

On the Internet, it is easy to find the official website of almost any state department, as well as a number of government portals, systems, etc. Although they have appeared not so long ago, the price for them has already soared. The question is how much do the information technologies under the national flag cost?

Building a website of our own

State entities began to acquire their own websites as early as in the 2000s. The most active growth of their Internet activity occurred in the years of Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency. During that time, almost every department created its own web-resource, from federal ministries to the city administration of municipalities. Once unaccustomed to computer technology officials now do not spare neither trouble nor expense on all sorts of websites and portals.

In this situation, the capital of our homeland serves as a true model for the rest of the country. In Moscow, even websites are created on a whole different scale. For instance, let us look at the Moscow Investment Portal. This website is a decent one, though average-looking at best from the perspective of both functionality and design. Elaborate system of headings, several image rotator widgets, and news infographics, which is a growing trend today – those are practically all the advantages it has. There is also a promising link that leads to "Online Services," most of which are in fact nothing more than feedback forms. A similar functionality can be found at any major culinary website. The cost may well be the only thing at which the Moscow Investment Portal surpasses its competitors. To demonstrate the investment climate in all its glory, the city administration has spent 226.5 million rubles. By the way, it is worth mentioning that the investment portal of the Astrakhan region, which in many respects is quite similar to that of Moscow, cost the regional budget only 3 million rubles.

The project of the investment portal originated in 2009, definitely not the most prosperous year for the Russian economy. However, it was made clear from the start that the government did not intend to pinch pennies. The officials, who were accustomed to real estate development, divided the production process into three stages. The total cost was growing like snowball with each new stage. On November 2, 2009, the Moscow Information Technology Department announced an open competition for the works of the first stage. The initial maximum contract price was 11 million rubles. The second phase of the work was carried out under the state contract № GK 6401/10-877 EM of December 16, 2010. According to the annex to the Decree of the Moscow Government dated August 24, 2010 № 740-PP, its cost was 35 million rubles. By the way, the issue of releasing the portal in the Internet was not even discussed at that time.

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It is unlikely that someone will be able to understand what the first two stages stood for, since the city administration did not actually concern itself with creating a website in the usual sense (i.e. when a user expects a web-resource to appear on the Internet). This issue was delayed until the so-called third stage. But the state machine kept on burning money for nothing, with the starting price of the new tender estimated at 35 million rubles. After nearly two years of spending millions on a still non-existent website, the mayor’s office decided to accelerate the process. As a result, the Moscow Information Technology Department gave only 50 days for the development of the investment portal (according to the tender documentation). Moreover, the minimum execution period was 20 days. Hardly anyone was willing to work in such conditions, in fact, only one company agreed. The tender was declared void, but the contract was still concluded with this sole participant of the failed competition. This lucky company was the State Research and Production Enterprise Granit-Center, created some time ago by the Government of Moscow. However, Granit-Center did not actually have any programmers that could work day and night, and so those 50 days lasted more than two years. The Moscow Investment Portal appeared on the Internet only on March 5, 2014. Our attentive readers have already counted that only 81 million was spent for the development of the resource, whereas a total of 226 million rubles had been allocated. That is correct, but who said that once the site has been open, it is impossible to spend some more funds on its existence?

Modernize this!

"There is no limit to perfection," the Moscow Information Technology Department proclaimed and eagerly began to upgrade the web-resource. As head of the department Artem Yermolayev later admitted in an interview to Afisha, the concept of the portal had been changed twice, and that was why the costs soared. Indeed, the generosity of Yermolaev and his colleagues knew no bounds. The first upgrade of the resource cost the city budget 70 million rubles. An open tender for the carrying out of such an important task was launched in September 2012. Our readers should note that by that time the portal had not existed yet. This did not prevent the officials from wasting efforts and, most importantly, money on modernizing it. It is absolutely impossible to understand the principal difference between the upgraded portal and its previous version, because the latter was invisible. The technical design specification had been defined in such a manner that it allowed developers to mold anything they liked. The tender was declared void once again, with only one company becoming the contractor. This lone competitor was the already familiar Granit-Center.

The next upgrade was required in less than a month since the portal had launched. The contest was announced on March 26, 2014. The second stage of development had an even higher price, the cost of the work amounted to 75 million rubles. Surprisingly, the tender was held, and won not by Granit-Center, but by a certain Limited Liability Company TOP-CASE. It remains unclear up to the present day, what is the conceptual difference between the current version of the web-site and the previous one. But let us look at the bright side: simple mathematical calculations confirm the total amount of 226 million rubles. But here we are talking only about the development of the portal, its maintenance is a whole other story.

In order to understand how far-fetched the figure of 226 million rubles looks in comparison with other similar resources, we should turn to existing examples. The above-mentioned investment portal of the Astrakhan region, which cost 3 million rubles, is considered one of the most massive and rich in content. There are other resources, cheaper and more modest. For instance, the development of the Altai Republic Investment Portal was worth 2.5 million rubles, the Investment Portal of the Leningrad region - 499 thousand rubles, and the same resource in the Komi Republic was created with only 150 thousand rubles. However, at the same time we have the Tomsk Region Investment Portal worth 3.9 million rubles, but this price already looks unreasonably high in comparison with that of the Leningrad region. And in is unlikely that the efforts of the programmers in the provinces cost more than in the Leningrad region.

From the best of motives

Soon the suburbs rushed to learn from the successful experience of the capital. The Moscow Region Government has taken on the creation of a regional trading portal, promising no less than to set free the trade from the shadow embrace. The widely advertised website is really working. Without further ado, it duplicates all the relevant for Moscow region information from the public procurement and federal auction sites. The resource was launched following the already painfully familiar pattern.

First, a tender was announced for the development of the portal worth more than 35.8 million rubles. Then it was the turn of the upgrades, which, as usual, were even more expensive than the development. About 72 million rubles were spent on it. Both tenders were won by the ubiquitous Granit-Center, though one of the participants of the second tender, the Nau-Service Closed Joint Stock Company, offered a much lower price, 39 million rubles.

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However, the Moscow Region Government does not value cheapness, instead it helps associated companies in every way possible. By simply adding numbers, we receive more than 107.8 million rubles spent on the site, which simply copies data from other resources. Is not it a shining example of the so-called effective money spending during the crisis?

The case of the investment portal was not the only questionable decision of the Moscow Information Technology Department. While the Moscow region authorities were spouting ideas about their own trading portal, the officials of the capital undertook a new project. This one was really necessary and useful. The Accessible Environment Portal was designed to accumulate information on the accessibility of all public facilities in Moscow for people with disabilities. Users of the site would be able to receive the latest, regularly updated data with photos and reference to the geolocation.

But soon citizens had to come back down to earth. The idea was too good to be true. History repeated itself in July 2012, when an open tender for the development of the portal was announced. The cost of work amounted to 17 million rubles.

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A year later, the officials traditionally set up a new tender for the modernization of the site.

The following events were unpleasantly predictable. Only one participant - the BARS Group Company - applied for the competition. The tender was declared void, and Bars Group successfully concluded a contract with the Moscow Information Technology Department for 8.55 million rubles. By the way, the same Bars Group won the first competition for the development of the website. But what is most unfortunate, is that the Accessible Environment Portal still does not exist, although the budget has been fully implemented. Perhaps the department simply does not want to break the tradition of re-modernization, for which they still lack a few dozens of millions?

Admittedly, the metropolitan officials are known for their innovative mindset. If they decide to decorate the city, they will make sure palm trees and sakuras are everywhere. And if there is an urgent need in an Internet portal, then they will never run of ideas. Wooing the muses, as we all know, is not for those who fuss about, so Muscovites had better get used to waiting time and time again for the projects, which are actually useful. The officials are having a creativity crisis, you know. And the administrative one as well.

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