Mr Jaroslaw Ponder (Head, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Office for Europe) moderated this session. Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin (Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), ITU) noted that building national cultures of innovation could help bridge the global digital divide. In order to achieve the ambitious 2023 target, the BDT Innovation Programme offers products and services, and supports countries in developing policies towards sustainable innovation.
Ms Maria-Manuela Catrina (State Secretary, Ministry of Communications and the Information Society, Romania) shared the Romanian experience. Catrina stressed that setting the agenda for the presidency included a dialogue between the government, the civil society, and businesses, and resulted in setting four main priorities for the country: innovation, cybersecurity, digital skills, and women in tech.
Ms Anna Korka (Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Mission Of Greece to the United Nations) talked about the importance of innovation, governance and education for economic growth. Korka noted that Greece aspires to be a smart nation and has adopted a series of initiatives to enable the digital transformation. Mr Konstantinos Masselos (President, Hellenic Telecommunications & Post Commission (EETT), Greece) explained how Greece developed a start-up community. The 2009 financial collapse damaged the national economy, but paved way for start-ups and foreign investment. Despite of suboptimal conditions from 2012 to 2016, Greece developed digital entrepreneurship. Today, the national strategy for innovation 2014-2020, platform StartUpGreece, and the EquiFund, all contribute to greater youth innovation and entrepreneurship. Regulators should avoid heavy regulation in the early stages of development and collaboration with other stakeholders remain crucial.
Mr George Michaelides (Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Electronic Communications and Postal Regulation (OCECPR), Cyprus) remarked that innovation does not come out of nowhere, but that it is cultural. He stressed the importance of a holistic approach. The state should ensure long-term sustainability by enforcing legislation, while academia should be included in the research and development phase, as well as in education. Michaelides also stressed that the innovation ecosystem has to be inclusive and the government should make sure that all stakeholders fulfil their part.
Mr Vladica Tintor (Director, Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (RATEL), Serbia) said that the biggest challenge for Serbia is in transforming innovation to employability. Serbia aims to develop in-line with European Union’s targets and has adopted a number of strategies. They include an approach to e-government, the creation of a ministerial ICT council, introducing mandatory ICT education at an early age, and supporting software development as one of the country’s main exports. The main challenges include e-signature, e-payments, and speeding-up business transactions.
Ms Anneli Vares (Deputy Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Estonia) said that innovation requires political will and that any society can become a digital one like Estonia. ‘Innovation is a mindset’, she said, and the government has to adopt a leading role. An inclusive partnership between the tech-savvy population, a forward-thinking government, and the ICT sector are necessary. Digitalisation has saved time and costs in Estonia, e-government has changed governance, e-services are widely used, 67% of the population has an e-ID, and e-Residency is increasingly popular. ‘Being adaptable to changes made Estonia a digital society’, Vares said. Safe and secure solutions enable trust which is essential. Decreasing inequalities and furthering good governance with ICTs is one of the main priorities for the country internationally.
Mr Oleksandr Danchenko (Chairman, Committee for Information and Communications, Ukraine Parliament) emphasised digitalisation as a highly important element for developing the Ukrainian economy in-line with European standards. The main challenge is administrative reform, while joining the Single Digital Market is the main national priority.
From a non-European perspective, Mr Anir Chowdhury (Policy Advisor, Prime Minister Office, Bangladesh) agreed with his colleagues by saying that ‘innovation is not accidental, but deliberate’. He explained that Bangladesh faces different challenges. The rise in digital entrepreneurship has been significant, especially in rural areas where 5 000 digital centres were created and 150 digital services, such as insurance, monthly serve 6 000 000 citizens. ‘Public-private-partnerships work’, Chowdhury said. ICTs are used in education through platforms such as the Teacher's Portal. The biggest challenge is solving the threats of the fourth industrial revolution, as automation is already leaving millions of people unemployed in Bangladesh.
By Jana Mišić