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Ambassador of Grenada Interviewed by UGRA-NEWS during the International IT-Forum

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Grenada Oleg Firer arrived in Khanty-Mansiysk to take part in an international IT forum. In an interview with UGRA-NEWS.ru correspondent, a guest from a distant country in the Caribbean spoke about his impression of Ugra, how Russia is ahead of other states in the field of information technology and whether bitcoin can become a national currency.

– You visited Ugra for the first time. Is it interesting to visit here in terms of tourism?

– Yes, I will come here again with pleasure, I liked everything very much. I love nature, and there is a lot of it here. I love different seasons, both heat and cold. Ecotourism is now a very popular destination. Many people want to discover something else new for themselves. Siberia is one of the places where you can do this. And Khanty-Mansiysk is the first city in Siberia, which I got a chance visit.

– Yes, this is a place with unusual energy. Khanty-Mansiysk on the map is easy to recognize. This is the point where Siberian rivers Ob and Irtysh join. Did you know about this?

– I have heard about it. I also heard that the name of the city is associated with two tribes. Very interesting.

– You have been working at the forum for the second day. Did it live up to your expectations?

– More than justified. I saw and heard a lot of interesting things, collaborated with the colleagues, got acquainted with a lot of projects that can be implemented. As well as got a lot of notable information at the IT forum.

– You represent a state that does not belong to either the BRICS or the SCO. Why are you interested in this event?

– Grenada is a part of GRULAC – a group of Latin American and Caribbean countries. I am present here as a representative of the Eastern Caribbean countries; and my colleagues that are here with me from Dominican Republic and Nicaragua are representatives of the Latin America. The paradox is that at GRULAC group in Russia, I am the only English-speaking representative, because I represent the English-speaking region of the Caribbean. SCO, BRICS, we are all colleagues. It is interesting to open up new horizons, find out the opinions of colleagues, and create collaborations with other regions.

This forum is called international, and I believe it is a correct statement. We are all one world. Every region benefits from this forum. For example, yesterday, my colleague from Venezuela took part online in the “IT Forum Without Borders” session. Therefore, it is safe to say that this forum unites countries around the world.

– What ideas on the forum attracted you the most and made you think about changes in your work? What have you noted for yourself?

– I made a couple of notes for myself. I was impressed by many IT solutions. I listened with pleasure to Evgeny Kaspersky at the opening of the plenary session, and even wrote down his quotes for myself. By the way, I saw him live for the first time. I would also like to emphasize particularly the project of managing the school system, which works interactively with parents: where parents can choose a lunch menu for their children by calories, plan their leisure time and the child’s schedule. This is a very interesting system; it belongs on the international market. Another project is an interactive system for museums with virtual reality glasses, as if you get into a picture and you can walk around it accompanied by a guide, sound. In general, there were many projects that can and should be implemented.

– From your experience of international work, how do you think our country has advanced in the development of the digital economy, digitalization of the service sector, including education? And in general, can this somehow serve as a reference point for the rest of the world?

– Compared to the Caribbean, Russia is a much-advanced country. If we compare at the international level, then Russia in many areas is more advanced than those countries that call themselves “digital capitals”, Estonia, for example. Russia is very advanced in collaboration systems, in the system of public services. In general, digitalization in Russia is at a very high level, even when compared with Europe and the United States. For example, your banking systems are ways ahead of the Western ones.

– If we continue the banking sector, I would like to note that you are one of the founders of the American payment system. That is, you have a certain vision of this market. What is the likelihood of new payment systems emerging? After all, it seems that everything has been invented for a long time. Why are new ones still being created?

– Most often, the so-called new systems use old technologies. What you see in economics today is the creation of local systems. For example, the Mir system is not a novelty either. It was just that Russia needed to have its own system. These systems provide both the loyalty of citizens and a closed way for the public sector, because each of them must have their own local payment system. The future, of course, lies behind digital currency and blockchain, but this is a separate topic for the conversation.

I am a representative of the state of Grenada, the only representative of the East Caribbean region, which forms part of the Caribbean Community “CARICOM” and the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States “OECS” in the Russian Federation. CARICOM is a Caribbean community that includes 15 English speaking Caribbean countries. The OECS integration includes 11 East Caribbean states, of which 8 states are united by one economy and one currency – the East Caribbean dollar, which is regulated by the East Caribbean central bank. Why am I telling all this?

Firstly, on the 18th of June, the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States celebrates its fortieth anniversary and the Prime Minister of Grenada becomes the head of the OECS, it is also important to note that the Central Bank of the OECS was the first in the world to release digital currency for wide use in 2019. It is important to understand that this is not a cryptocurrency, not a crypto-asset, this is money that is not printed, but exists only online and is widely popular in the East Caribbean. Digital money is a huge step into the future.

– In Africa, there is one state that declared bitcoin as the national currency along with the dollar. Can this trend continue?

– In my opinion, absolutely not. And you will see it for yourself. The indicator was that, for example, China, on the contrary, abstracted from this. Today this whole topic sounds more like a “hype”. And such small states want to go to some other level on this hype. Bitcoin cannot even be called a currency; it is more of a crypto-asset. How can you call something a currency that is not regulated by anything today?

– In Russia, cryptocurrency is equated to an asset, that is, a federal law was issued, and it became legalized as a means of investment. But there are other positions that believe the opposite. Your opinion?

– These are just the positions of people. There are many enthusiasts today who call different things different things. There are, after all, fundamental things to consider when creating a currency or working with the Central Bank. I still hope that in the end the bitcoin can rightfully be considered a currency, because in its current form it cannot and will need transparency and regulations wrapped around it.

– There is a digital economy, and there is what enables the digital economy. It’s all the same iron, electricity and those databases that form the blockchain. And somewhere all these servers should be located. They have to provide this infrastructure. In our region, it is believed that, since we have inexpensive electricity and there is an opportunity to save on cooling these servers, that is, projects to create such “farms”. But globally, the region wants to move from them to servers, data centers that would ensure the operation of the blockchain. How realistic is this to you?

– It’s very realistic. You have correctly noted that you have a climate for this. This is truly a real future. In general, any country should think about technology parks, about the creation of “data centers”, about the creation of “digital farms”. In the future, it will only grow and scale. All this is a very large industry, which will find many applications: both in gaming and in commerce, it will facilitate the work of state corporations and other spheres of life. I would like to note that there is also a great future behind so called “cryptocurrency”, crypto-assets. You just need to change the shape a little.

– You also mentioned global investments. Russia is now under sanctions. How adequate are they now in the digital reality in which we live?

– In general, the sanctions do not affect the majority of citizens of the Russian Federation. They are on a different level for other state corporations. For the local economy of Russia, sanctions are just at hand, because the goods of local producers are beginning to be in demand. Many Western corporations that want to work in the Russian Federation must localize their resources in the Russian Federation. Sanctions for the domestic economy of the country are only a plus. For the economy as a whole, for international companies, digitalization is a salvation that can give way out of closed-commerce as a result of sanctions.

Author: Vladimir Merkushev (ugra-news.ru)