Nadezhda Surova: We are creating an ecosystem of a future human development
— Thank you for the opportunity for this interview. Please tell us about the priorities, goals, and objectives of the «Artificial intelligence» project of the university 2035 National technological initiative.
National Technological Initiative (NTI) headed by Dmitry Peskov is the main institution for the development of breakthrough digital technologies. Three years ago the NTI's University 20.35 was established. The "Artificial Intelligence" project started in 2019 and its main goal is to create an ecosystem of universities and technology champion companies who in order to facilitate Russia's world leadership in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

— How important is the university 20.35 in the implementation of NTI developments in education?
University 20.35 was established on the basis of NTI several years ago, and since then it has become not only a system for training of personnel for the digital economy but also an institute for development and a global center for creating new technologies, forms, programs, and platform solutions for Russian education. The basis of the University is a proprietary platform on the basis of the unique technology of the module, which can be integrated with the systems of such organizations as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and so on. This platform brings together a very large number of specialists and experts, as well as all schools and universities.

— How is the university 20.35 built?
One of the development goals of the University 20.35 is the creation and testing of a new model of human development based on a data-centric infrastructure. Now we combine information infrastructure, research activities, as well as a new type of university organization that teaches more than a million students on courses of various durations and gives access to a very large number of educational online resources, various forms of gaming technologies, and methods of professional diagnostics. Also, there is a network of the "Boiling Points" events, the "Circle Movement" workshops, etc. in our ecosystem. And, of course, an important part of our system is an IT-company — a platform of NTI, as we help building the professional aspect of the educational trajectory of each participant.

— How can pupils and students become a part of this project?
Everyone who wants to take part in it has to register on the www. website. You will needto complete a questionnaire and undergo diagnosis, often in the form of a quest. As a result we will get a set of your competences and will be able to make a projection of your perfect professional image and suggest educational programs required to achieve it. It should be noted that artificial intelligence starts playing its role already at this stage. AI selects your personal academic track and recommends certain courses.

As for the training process, we have it practice-oriented and built on real cases from leading companies. For example, data scientists write scripts, work with real data, and develop services that can later be used by our partner organizations in their work. Upon completion of the training, students receive a certificate from the University 20.35 and a university or corporation whose courses they attended. I would like to note that in order to provide our students with the opportunity to receive education on breakthrough technologies of the international level we cooperate not only with Russian, but also with foreign educational institutions. And, of course, we do not focus only on education in the field of information technology, but focus on all sectors of the national economy, not forgetting that in each of them we still focus on breakthrough digital technologies.

— Given the scale of its activities, the university 20.35 should be the owner of the data on the «gold» fund of professionals in the field of breakthrough technologies. how is this information systematized and further used?
The University 20.35 system stores information about more than 1 million participants of various programs and our activities. To present information about their experience and personal trajectories of development, we use a tool called digital competence profile. This is a huge array of big data, which not only carries information about personal and professional details and links with various objects of the system, but, first of all, is taxonomy, which is a system of structured competencies. Of course, this is an almost inexhaustible base, both for staffing agencies and for corporations and executive authorities of various levels. Each of these persons has practical competencies acquired during the learning process and regularly sharpened at the Boiling Points events, for participation in which they also receive points, which, in turn, are recorded into a personal portfolio.
— What are the practical results of applying the results of activities? why are so many corporations, universities and just ordinary people striving to cooperate with the university 20.35?
First of all, each of our partners and participants find solutions to their problems of different levels at the University 20.35. From a strategic point of view, corporations receive strong personnel with proven competencies who have been trained not just in standard academic courses, but in truly modern high-quality case-based study programs.

At the same time, organizations solve their current problems. For example, at the recent hackathon participants have developed 5 ready-made services for the Moscow Government. One of them is a service for primary processing of documents that are submitted together with an application for subsidies for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). There was no such service before, so the procedure for considering applications used to last up to 3 weeks. Now the decision is made in up to 1 hour, and the bulk of the time is spent on ensuring that the artificial intelligence recognizes the applicant's handwritten text. This service was developed in just 4 weeks by a team of students from MISIS University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, and now it will serve the development of SME organizations in Moscow. I am sure that our teams of specialists are able to solve many problems at the international level.

Of course, teams of start-up projects are formed at the University 20.35. They are of substantive interest for many business structures seeking to diversify their activities. We provide access to the primary information they need to make a decision to support a particular startup.

As for the interest of universities, first of all, this is an increase in the practice-orientation of programs, optimization of funds due to the transfer of the disciplines studied at University 20.35. In addition, we assist students in organizing various types of internships, internships prescribed by their curricula, and creating startups as their diploma project.

And finally, our students have the opportunity to access a variety of educational programs from the best universities in the world based on case studies. For example, out 75 artificial intelligence programs out of 115 are presented by foreign universities and companies. We issue certificates to successful graduates, and the best of them can be offered employment options.

— Discussions about the wider application of artificial intelligence technologies are always accompanied by conversations about the ethics of the new mind, how do you decide this?
In connection with the development of artificial intelligence technologies, new education in a digital environment, which is based on ethics and a socially transformative approach, is gaining importance for people. We create a system based on the ethical norms of artificial intelligence and the implementation of methods of socially transformative investment — impact investment. This is indeed a very new and relevant direction not only for Russia, but also for the whole world.

— In other words, teaching by innovative technologies of case‐oriented education in Artificial intelligence methods can contribute to the export of Russian education in a number of industries, can't it?
That is correct, the Artificial Intelligence technology is the most actively growing technology in the world in terms of capitalization. The growth of the size of world market of artificial intelligence in 2020 was assessed at the record-breaking US$57.4 bln. Thanks to the introduction of the AI technology in various sectors: automotive (UAVs — Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles), health care (data detection), industrial production (self-learning monitoring programs and systems of process control), retail (displaying ads based on collected user preferences), finance and manufacturing, services (smart voice assistants), etc. This exponentially affects the demand for specialists in the field of AI and I think that in 2021 the training of specialists in the field of artificial intelligence is the main major for exports of Russian education for all sectors of the transformed global economies.
Nadezhda Surova, Head of the "Artificial Intelligence" Project at National Technological Initiative, Member of the State Duma Expert Council on the Digital Economy.