Monday, July 25, 2016
Innopolis: The Silicon Valley of Russia
Innopolis, Tatarstan, Russia
What do you think of when you here Silicon Valley? Do you picture endless IT specialists working at computers? Do you think innovation and technology? If you are like me then you think of a world you don't really know. Something you can't quite comprehend because you are terrible understanding and using anything related to technology. I'm getting off-track, so let me get us back on track and tell you the real reason I wrote this post. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have noticed I wasn't in Ufa. I spent the last two weeks working at a summer bootcamp at Innopolis University, a city about 50 minutes away from Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia.
Innopolis is Russia's newest city with construction starting in 2012 and having its foundation ceremony in June 2015. It is a new government-funded project meant to replicate Silicon Valley in the United States. It is a high-tech city focusing on IT related development. Currently, IT makes up 34% of GDP for the USA but only 3% of Russian GDP. I think this is a smart move for Russia since their economy is falling apart as world oil prices decrease. Plus, where do all those hackers live? To me it seems like they are always in Russia. I'm not knocking Russian hackers either. It's actually a compliment. Russian IT specialists are very talented. Heck, I'm even dating one - not a hacker, a Russian software engineer.
It's obvious as you walk around that the city is still being established. It's eerily quiet most times of the day and there are construction sites every where you look. The university is really the only part of the campus that constantly has something going on. Innopolis University is based on western/American universities, so to me I felt like I was back in the United States. All instruction is given in English, and their appeal is that students will not have to take useless classes like you'd see in most liberal arts schools in the USA. Russia offers free higher education, but Innopolis is a tuition-based school. Fortunately, most students receive scholarship money to attend school there. One of my students told me that students can get money for startup companies through the university. Obviously, Innopolis will get money back from the startup, but I think it's great that they are encouraging students to use their skills and offering a chance for them to do so. Students without money are now given opportunities to better themselves, and I think the USA could learn a thing or two from Innopolis.
While the university itself is a hotspot for activity the rest of the town looks like a scene out of The Walking Dead. As of right now the city can hold 5000 residents, but according to Wikipedia the city's population is only 96. Other than the sports complex - which features state-of-the-art equipment, a pool, two types of saunas, and different sports sites for soccer and tennis - there is literally nothing else except for one grocery store. In a later post I will have more photos which will show how barren the place is. Although it's still in the early stages of development I'm really excited to see what will become of Innopolis. If you are interested in seeing the future of Innopolis you can watch this video.
There are a lot of street dogs running around. I love any dog I see, and this one was so nice she even posed for a picture. One day I also saw a puppy running around and I was sad to learn it had lice. The dogs were so funny. The one day I was walking and saw it chasing some kids (not in a mean way) on bikes. As I was going in one of the tunnels to cross the street I heard the dog running behind me. It was so cute looking like it wanted to use the tunnel just like humans and he kept stopping to make sure I was following.
What are your impressions of Innopolis? Do you think it's a good idea?