By Joshua Falk
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited the Silicon Valley with a goal to develop an innograd, a mecca for tech industry modeled after the Valley, in the Moscow suburbs. Following visits to Twitter, Apple and Cisco, Medvedev presented a 10-point plan to boost Russia’s tech industry in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Wednesday, June 23.
“Russia must become one of the leaders of innovative development,” Medvedev said.
Having met with Steve Jobs at Apple headquarters earlier that day in Cupertino, where he received a yet-to-be-released iPhone 4, the tech-savvy Russian president chose to read his speech notes off an Apple iPad instead of paper.
“What I managed to see yesterday night and today is inspiring,” Medvedev said. “It is not by chance I came here. I wanted to see with my own eyes the origin of success.”
In his speech, Medvedev acknowledged the need to provide grants for scholars and researchers. He also stressed the need to protect intellectual property rights and enable all Russians to access broadband Internet.
“We would like to make sure that talented people get all the possibilities to tap their full potential,” he said.
Medvedev also acknowledged Russia’s constantly developing political system.
“We are ready to further improve our political system,” he said, “but of course we are going to do it by ourselves, without any mentoring from the outside world.”
“My task, as the president, is to raise the authority of the court to the extent possible and create a reliable and trustworthy judicial system,” he added.
Medvedev also stressed that capital must reach the right people in order for the tech industry to flourish in Russia.
“In Russia, we have money — and, in a number of cases, big money — but we don’t have Silicon Valley,” Medvedev said.
Medvedev gave the speech in Russian, but simultaneous English translation was available. Many attendees chose to ask the president questions in Russian.
In response to an audience member’s question, Medvedev said it was unlikely that Russia and Georgia could repair their relations while Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili remained in office.
Following Medvedev’s address, University Provost John Etchemendy invited former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice to the stage, where the secretaries presented Medvedev with a gift from the Hoover Archives.
“I am inspired by what I saw here in Silicon Valley and California and Stanford,” Medvedev said.
“I am sort of jealous of all of you here because you have an opportunity to be creative, to teach, to make money, to do something you love and quickly see your work yielding fruit,” Medvedev said. “What is it, if not happiness?”
“This is a historic day for Stanford,” said attendee Laura Walch, who thought Medvedev was personable, direct and approachable. “I was very honored to be here.”
Others praised the approach Medvedev took toward fostering private industry.
“He is a great leader,” said Igor Chirashnya, originally from Uzbekistan in the former Soviet Union. “He knows that it’s not about government, but about creating the atmosphere in the country.”
“It was interesting to see an open dialogue,” said Andre Samsonov, a Russian citizen who works in IT services in Seattle. “The atmosphere was good.”
But outside the auditorium in White Plaza, the atmosphere was less cordial. A group of local Georgians numbering in the twenties held a protest after the speech, displaying Georgian flags and signs that read, “Abkhazia is Georgia” and “You are not welcome here. Nor is your worship.”
Following his visit to Stanford and Silicon Valley, Medvedev flew to Washington to meet with President Obama before heading to Canada for the G8 and G20 summits.