Cameras set up at polling booths provided endless hours of amusement on Russian election day earlier this month. Now Rostelecom, the Russian phone company, is looking to get more mileage out of the video surveillance system it helped install. As Rostelecom announced today, the Rb13bn ($440m) video surveillance project will live on, helping to transmit classroom lessons via the web and provide more security in schools. While many poo-pooed Vladimir Putin’s December proposal for video surveillance in polling booths – arguing that the cameras would not actually detect or prevent fraud – the fact that the surveillance system was implemented so fast, and went off without a hitch, is likely to make it a gold standard for Russian infrastructure projects.
As Rostelecom notes in its announcement, the company set up close 92,000 video surveillance systems in schools, hospitals and private homes across the country that were transformed on March 4 into makeshift polling stations. The cameras were set up in 79 days all across the country (except for Magadanskaya Oblast in Russia’s Far East because of severe weather conditions). Ten satellites were employed for the task, while more than 9,000 km of new communication lines were built in the process.
On election day, 3.5m people tuned in to watch the surveillance footage – with as many as 415,000 people watching at one time. The site, webvybory2012.ru, didn’t buckle once. What comes next is a bit more hazy. According to Rostelecom, the cameras will be used in future municipal and regional elections, but will also take on new roles. The majority of the surveillance systems were set up in schools, where they may now be used both to monitor safety, and create online classrooms thanks to a new Rostelecom project called “School of the future”.