MOSCOW: Online adspend in Russia could rise by 30% each year for the next four years if investment in network infrastructure is maintained.

A report from Boston Consulting Group and Google suggests that the contribution of the internet sector as a whole to Russia's GDP could rise from 1.6% in 2009 to 3.7% in 2015.

But the report's optimistic forecasts largely depend on similarly rapid growth of online penetration rates - which have lagged behind Russia's European and emerging Asian rivals over recent years.

Figures cited by the Moscow Times suggest that around half of Moscow and St Petersburg residents are currently connected to the web. This total drops to 20% outside these urban centres.

But Vladimir Dolgov, head of Google Russia, said that network infrastructure was likely to improve markedly over the next few years.

"While Internet penetration will never reach 100 percent, as there will always be babies and elderly people who just don't want to use it, we can easily reach 80 percent by 2015," he told the newspaper.

Anna Lepetukhina, an analyst at Troika Dialog, was similarly upbeat about the online advertising sector.

"The Internet advertising market will also continue to expand, and we will see the growth in transparency of [ad] placement," she said.

Latest Warc forecasts back up the report's findings, and suggest that Russian online adspend will grow by 32.9% this year and by a further 27.1% in 2012.

Skolkovo, the Russian government's planned high-tech innovation centre - which aims to attract companies specialising in energy efficiency initiatives, nuclear technology, space technology, medical technology and IT to a district near Moscow - went unmentioned in the report.

But Dolgov suggested that the centre would play a "serious role" in online expansion in Russia.

"I cannot say that it will be key to the increase of the Internet economy's share of GDP, but you have to keep in mind that Skolkovo has five areas of focus and IT is only one of them," he said.

Data sourced from Moscow Times/Warc; additional content by Warc staff