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Information society of Belarus: today and tomorrow

Intensive development across the communications market hasn’t simply affected Belarus, but has defined the vector of the country’s development for coming years. According to the Ministry of Communications and Informatisation, almost everyone, even in the remotest areas, can access the Internet and mobile networks.

Information society development is a national priority for the Republic of Belarus and is considered to be a national task requiring joint effort by the state, business and civil society. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are vital to socio-economic progress, one of the key factors in the innovative development of the economy.

Over the last decade, as a result of the implementation of state programmes, including within the Electronic Belarus State Programme of Informatisation for 2003-2005 and until 2010, a number of multi-functional national and departmental information systems have been developed.

At the moment, the following services are available:

  • employment centres;
  • medical services (giving information on available beds in hospitals, appointment booking, and telemedicine);
  • public libraries (catalogues and search engines);
  • real estate reference and registration services;
  • electronic declaration services (such as relating to customs and taxation and loans).

In 2010, the Strategy for Information Society Development in the Republic of Belarus was approved for the period up until 2015. It defines the purpose, aims, conditions and priorities for the development of Belarus as an information society. In order to organise priorities within the Strategy, the National Programme of Accelerated Service Development in the field of ICT for 2011-2015 has been implemented. Results were summed up at the beginning of 2016, showing the significant steps taken towards the development of an information society:

  • the State Management System of Public Keys (GosSUOK) is now operational;
  • the National Centre for Electronic Services has been created, overseeing interdepartmental information systems providing paid and free of charge electronic services to government agencies, organisations and individuals;
  • the Interdepartmental Electronic Document Management System has been created, becoming the main method of information exchange between government agencies and organisations;
  • the National Automated Information System (NAIS) has been launched, aiming to integrate state information resources and automate the work of government agencies providing electronic services.

Economy and trade

Public procurement procedures are being conducted via electronic trading platforms.

Education

The national system of information support for teachers’ certification has been developed, alongside an electronic admission system for university entrance, and remote training for professionals working with emergency situations.

Public health service

There is now a database cataloguing all injuries in the Republic of Belarus, as well as all citizens receiving treatment or support for disabilities, allowing analysis. Work continues to set up a national system of telemedicine consultation.

Labour and social protection

There is now an automated system linked to the Social Protection Fund, with online provision for payment. The State Employment Service also has an online site, and there is an info line for social protection issues.
National content

The state media portal is now operational and, on March 23rd, 2016, a state programme was approved to develop a digital economy and information society for 2016-2020 (Resolution #235 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus).

International assessment

According to a report by the International Telecommunication Union for 2015, the Republic of Belarus is ranked 36th out of 157 states for its ICT Development Index, having risen two positions over the past year. Our country is among the top ten world economies for ICT access and use.

According to the ‘2014 United Nations E-government Survey: E-Government for the Future We Want’, Belarus’ e-government readiness was ranked 55th among 193 countries. In a similar UN report of 2012, Belarus was ranked 61st.

Mass media

The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the law ‘On Mass Media’ constitutes the legal basis of media activity in Belarus. They both regulate the truth of information, diversity of opinions, protection of morality and meeting of norms of professional ethics.

The law ‘On Mass Media’ has become the basis for self-regulation, overseen by the Public Co-ordination Council on the Media. This unites representatives of the mass media, of journalistic organisations and of the expert community. The main tasks of the Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus are the realisation of state policy regarding mass media, publishing and poligraphic activity, distribution of printed editions and mass media products, and regulation and co-ordination of activity by other Republican state management bodies, local executive and regulatory agencies.

Giants of national television

Belarus has almost eighty TV programmes, with most privately produced. The country’s major TV production company is the National State TV and Radio Company of the Republic of Belarus, which runs three TV channels: two Republican (Belarus 1 and Belarus 2) and one satellite (Belarus 24).

Almost 80 TV programs are broadcasted in Belarus, a lot of them are private. Photo: interfax.by.

The Belteleradiocompany broadcasts the First National Channel of Belarusian Radio, as well as the Culture, Belarus, Stolitsa and Radius-FM radio stations, and manages another five regional TV and radio companies.

The second largest TV production company (in terms of personnel employed) is ONT (Nationwide TV). It slightly differs from the Belteleradiocompany in broadcasting mixed content (Belarus 1 primarily broadcasts news and analytics). ONT broadcasts licensed programmes as well as nationally-produced programmes. ONT also oversees Radio ONT.

CTV (Stolichnoe Television JSC) is another national channel. It began as the formatted version of Russian Ren-TV Channel, supplemented with Belarusian news releases but now mostly broadcasts its own programmes.

The TV and Radio Broadcasting Organisation of the Russia-Belarus Union State, TRO Soyuz, was established in accordance with an agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, as of January 22nd, 1998. In addition, a representation of Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company operates on Belarusian territory.

Since 2015, electronic media has switched to digital broadcasting, as envisaged by a state programme to introduce digital television and radio broadcasting. Broadcasting is ensured via over forty transmitters, covering almost the entire country. Using a satellite, Belarus-TV, CTV, Mir and some other TV channels broadcast their programmes.

Cable alternative

Television in the Republic of Belarus is represented not only by terrestrial but also cable TV channels. Cable networks fill content with the help of satellite and terrestrial television, as well as via IPTV.

At present, Belarusian cable operators include over a hundred foreign TV channels, from the CIS and beyond – including Euronews, BBC and Eurosport. In addition, RTR-Belarus and NTV-Belarus have joint Belarusian-Russian content.

Television broadcasting rights are provided to cable operator networks, with the largest located in Minsk (MTIS and Kosmos-TV), and regional cities. Overall, about 130 cable operators operate in Belarus.

Radio: classical VHF and modern FM

Belarusian radio stations broadcast across FM and VHF bands. There are around thirty FM stations among 160 radio stations. The largest covers the city of Minsk, the Minskaja voblasć and regional centres.

Among the stations enjoying the greatest ratings are Unistar (the Belarusian-German media project), Alpha Radio, and Radio Rocks. Some also broadcast over the Internet. The Belarus State Radio Station is the only one to broadcast to foreign countries. Its programmes are released in Belarusian, Russian, English, German, Polish, French and Spanish.

Loyalty to traditions: paper media

Around 1,500 printed media are registered in Belarus, with an almost equal balance between newspapers and magazines. Printed media includes advertising publications, glossy magazines, and serious analytical and scientific publications.

Newspapers and magazines are published mainly in Belarusian and Russia but some are released in English, Polish, Ukrainian, German and other languages.

The largest newspaper is ‘SB. Belarus Segodnya’: a socio-political edition founded by the Administration of the President of Belarus. The second largest (by number of subscribers) is ‘Respublika’ – published by the Council of Ministers. Meanwhile, local state printed media take a significant share of the information market.

Local, regional editions of major Russian newspapers include ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belorussia’, and ‘Argumenty i Fakty in Belarus’. Foreign print media, including publications from Kazakhstan, the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and other countries, also have distribution.

News agencies

Nine news agencies operate, including seven privately owned. The largest provider of news is the Belarusian Telegraph Agency – BelTA. Alongside Belarusian information agencies, Minsk is home to representative offices of Russian and international news agencies: Interfax, ITAR-TASS, Prime-TASS, Reuters and the Associated Press.