8 Oct 2019
Russia's Digital Education Upgrade Set to Benefit Hong Kong Suppliers
Imported electronics items set to be at a premium as Russia looks to develop the next generation's IT skills.
Russia's school system is set for a massive technological upgrade following a recent directive from the Ministry of Education. Despite its somewhat lacklustre billing, this new initiative – Methodological Guidelines for the Creation and Provision of Comprehensive Education Curricula on Digital, Science and Humanities Studies for Schools Located in the Countryside and Small Cities – actually betokens a dramatic transformation of the facilities available to the country's schoolchildren, while also representing a major opportunity for Hong Kong-based suppliers and distributors of attractively priced digital equipment.
Under the terms of the new policy, local educational authorities across Russia have been given the go-ahead to establish high-spec resource centres, where students can refine their information technology skill-sets. As currently envisaged, the centres will be shared facilities and open to use by several nearby schools.
In addition to outlining the need to establish such centres, the guidelines also include a surprisingly detailed list of the equipment each facility will require. This includes: a 3D printer; 3D print filaments; virtual-reality headsets; a quadcopter (complete with 4K definition cameras and a 6km operational range); three smaller quadcopters; a glue-gun; a jigsaw; and a digital caliper. It is believed that the designated equipment is seen as complementary to the existing technology resources of many Russian schools, although these, too, are getting something of an upgrade.
Indeed, a supplementary list, which also forms part of the guidelines, outlines the equipment individual schools are expected to purchase from their own budgets. This includes first aid training dummies; chess clocks; a digital stills camera; a digital video camera; a tripod; a professional-standard microphone; a digital video projector; a multi-function printing and scanning device; and a laptop for the sole use of the class teacher. In addition, in the case of the more rural schools, the directive also recommends the purchase of 10 "robust" laptops for student use.
Despite the detailed listing of each establishment's expected inventory, similar exactitude with regard to overall budgeting has not been forthcoming, with the Ministry of Education yet to release its funding proposals. Informal estimates by industry experts and senior educationalists, however, suggest it will cost about US$30,000 to equip each newly established centre with the designated equipment. While such a figure is likely to far exceed local municipal budgets, it is thought that federal budgets could easily cover any shortfall, especially given that all such authorities are known to have seriously underspent in the past three years, giving them extensive surplus cash resources.
For would-be Hong Kong exporters, it is worth noting that few of the items on both lists are available from a domestic Russian supplier. The only exception is the laptops, which could be easily sourced from local manufacturers or international companies with an in-Russia assembly facility. Even these items, though, will require imported components, many of which are typically sourced from Southeast Asia.
It is also worth bearing in mind, however, that it would be a violation of the Russian Federal Law on Procurement and Tenders for any such exporter to contact one of the new centres or a state school directly, as such establishments are obliged to source solely from domestically registered entities. The same legislation also stipulates that such bodies can only pay for any procured equipment once it has been delivered, installed and shown to be fully functional – another requirement that may prove unduly onerous for Hong Kong suppliers.
Regardless of such legal obstacles, however, the Ministry of Education's initiative will clearly oblige those Russian buyers already sourcing from Hong Kong and elsewhere in Southeast Asia to order a greater volume of components and finished products. In particular, there is a clear opportunity here for established OEM / ODM manufacturers, as well as lesser-known proprietary brands, to increase their exports to Russia, especially as many of the academic institutions involved will value low prices and robust construction above brand awareness. In this regard, it may be worth establishing a rapport with many of Russia's often overlooked smaller regional agents and distributors, as they may well prove to be effective conduits when it comes to dealing with the local authorities within their particular geographical areas of operation.
Leonid Orlov, Moscow Consultant