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Igor Agamirzian: 'Multidisciplinarity is Our Strength'

Igor Agamirzian

Igor Agamirzian
© Alexander Tivanov / HSE University

Keeping up with rapidly changing technology requires accelerated digital transformation in various spheres of the economy and science, as well as a broader application of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Technological advancement also requires conceptualisation and relevant legal regulation. The HSE News Service interviewed HSE Vice President Professor Igor Agamirzian, Academic Supervisor of the strategic project 'Digital Transformation: Technologies, Effects, Efficiency', about ongoing research into digitalisation and its outcomes.

Project History

HSE's strong point is our multidisciplinary approach to conducting research at the intersection of engineering, socioeconomic and humanitarian disciplines, encouraged and supported by horizontal cooperation across subdivisions. This strategic project engages teams from HSE's different subdivisions and campuses, including engineering areas of study in Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod, as well as humanitarian areas such as those focusing on the use of digital technology in the humanities and the legal and social aspects of digital transformation.

Another important component of the digital transformation project is a longitudinal study of households and businesses about the impact of digitalisation on their activities and daily practices

In the summer of the year before last, HSE subdivisions were surveyed about potential contributions they were able and willing to make to the project as it was still in the planning stage. Many research teams from HSE's different departments and institutes responded and gradually formed the backbone of the project.

Project Goals and Features

We make it a point to maintain a reasonable balance between basic and applied research. On one hand, there are basic research projects for potential future development, and on the other hand, there are applied projects to be implemented right now, including some that generate intellectual property in digital products and artificial intelligence. There are also educational events discussing some particularly interesting areas of digitalisation.

In addition to this, the project aims to understand the overall context of digitalisation and therefore includes longitudinal studies and a survey of organisations engaged in AI-related developments.

We also focus on quantum communications that involve quantum data transmission over super-secure channels, and on quantum computing. And finally, we study post-quantum cryptography that makes it possible to create new coding and security systems.

All universities possess competencies in digitalisation.

But our unique offer is to expand the scope of digital transformation research to integrate its socioeconomic aspects

The original project proposal included both technology research to be conducted by our engineering and computer science teams and analysis of the socio-economic effects of digital transformation. In this sense, HSE's digital transformation project proposal was unique compared to those submitted by other universities participating in the 'Priority 2030' project competition.

© iStock

Key Project Components and Stages

We launched the project in late 2021, and it took us some time to deal with the red tape. Active work on the project has been underway since early summer of 2022. In particular, in 2022, we published a joint analytical report 'Assessment of Digital Transformation Effects and Risks' that discussed a range of macroeconomic and structural factors, demand for technology, and potential future scenarios of digital transformation.

The Centre of Development, the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge, and some other subdivisions have been involved in the economics component of the project. Subdivisions of the Faculty of Humanities have been working on project aspects related to society and how it adapts to the challenges of the digital age.

Digital poverty and platform employment—topics that have gained relevance in the context of labour market changes and digital transformation—are studied by the Institute for Social Policy.

And finally, aspects such as changes in education, data-driven public administration, and regulation of the digital environment are covered, respectively, by the Institute of Education, the Institute for Public Administration and Governance, and the Institute of Digital Law.

Expected Results

Some subprojects may produce basic science results, and we will assess them based on publications. Subprojects focused on applied research are expected to create new intellectual property and technological innovations. In addition, the reports and longitudinal studies that I mentioned before will form the analytical and expert knowledge base. So, there will be a range of potential outputs united under the theme of digital transformation.

Thanks to HSE’s long-term rector Yaroslav Kuzminov and his vision, HSE University made a bet on digital technology 20 years ago

Then a relatively small university with a socioeconomic focus, HSE prioritised digital technology and started offering training in business informatics, a discipline at the junction of managerial and technical competencies. Since then, HSE has come a long way in its evolution, always maintaining a strong digital focus.

© HSE University

One can say that the Faculty of Computer Science is about basic research, while the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics is more about applied engineering, but both stay focused on the digital. At the same time, digital literacy (Data Culture) is taught across all areas of study. Digital technology fully penetrates education and research at HSE. In this respect, by focusing on the impact and effects of digital transformation, this project also helps shape HSE University's future trajectory.

These processes impact on the university as much as they do on enterprise and society

I can add that HSE is a highly entrepreneurial university. This is reflected in the entrepreneurship of our alumni, in the entrepreneurial approach to HSE's development, and in our internal startups, including those with digital technology at the core. One of the ways HSE evolves is by integrating digital technology in specific disciplines, such as the humanities, and by using it not only as a tool but also as a topic for research and educational programmes.

See also:

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Digital Transformation: How Technologies Transform the Economy and the Social Sphere

The dazzling evolution of digital technologies is changing the face of the economy and the social sphere. Some Russian sectors — such as the manufacturing industry and financial services — are well-aligned with the global trend, while some others are lagging behind, thereby creating risks for the country's economy. A team of HSE ISSEK researchers examined current approaches to measuring digital transformation and focused specifically on its uptake by a few key sectors of the Russian economy and services, benchmarking them against the global situation. The study findings were presented in the report 'Digital Transformation of Industries: Starting Conditions and Priorities' at the XXII April International Academic Conference co-organised by HSE University and Sberbank.

Yaroslav Kuzminov: As Digital Reality Develops, We Face More and More Infringements upon Freedom

Today, we need a coordinated agenda in order to understand how to develop a comfortable and safe technological environment and make the consequences of rapid technological development forecastable and manageable. This is what HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov said at the National Academic Online Conference ‘Ethical and Legal Issues of Digital Transformation: From Conflict to Harmony?’

HSE’s Digital Transformation Achievements Presented at Yandex Conference

On September 23– 25, Yandex held the Yandex Scale 2020 conference on new digital products and services. The conference included practical sessions on machine learning, data processing, analysis and other topics, as well as cases of the company’s customers and partners. One such case, concerning the evolution of a digital university, was presented by Alexey Chukarin, HSE University’s Senior Director for Digital Transformation.

At the Foothill of Our Digital Journey

April International Academic Conference is held in a distributed format this year, with some sessions broadcast online and papers and video presentations from others posted on the conference website. Professor Dr Ger Graus, first Global Director of Education at KidZania, is an invited speaker at Digital Transformation of Education session that is also conducted in this new distributed form. His paper is devoted to preparing children for digital era through non-formal education.

Project-Based Learning to Become the Core of the Updated Educational Model at HSE University

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