Panel: Ministers' discussions

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[Read more session reports and live updates from the 2nd Western Balkan Digital Summit]

Ms Majlinda Bregu (Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)) moderated the session.

Ms Tatjana Matić (State Secretary of the ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Telecommunications, the Republic of Serbia) noted that  ‘today’s day is historical’ in regard to decreasing the roaming prices, from both an economic and a political point of view. Digitalisation has been a priority the last five years in Serbia. Matic said that both the Serbian Prime minister and the President have said that the process of digitalisation is a joint process. There is still need for additional effort and investment in the telecommunications infrastructure. Currently, they are working on developing a strategy for digital skills development. The final result should be the digitalisation of 1700 schools in Serbia, which includes infrastructure, digital security, and digital skills. She concluded with an invitation for more and better collaboration among all Western Balkan economies.

Ms Dragica Sekulić (Ministry of Economy, Montenegro) noted two important roads: development of infrastructure and creating a favourable legislative framework for investment and implementation of e-solutions. Sekulić said that adaption of different laws and bylaws in the future will allow citizens to feel the privileges and benefits of a digital economy. She emphasised the importance of creating a better environment for startups and smart specialisation. An additional, third road is providing financial and non-financial support to those who are ready to implement e-solutions. Finally, she noted that the final step is to improve and develop digital skills. She pointed out that it is easier to work in co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science than with public administration.

Mr Valdrin Luka (Minister of Economic Development, Kosovo*[1]) said that the ICT sector in Kosovo is the only sector that does not have a problem with brain drain. He considers this sector to be the solution for the whole region. Key aspects are infrastructure, access to learning skills for people, access to finances, and a business environment that is connected to legislation. In regard to the infrastructure in Kosovo, a broadband project foresees 96 percent of coverage with fibre optics outside of the main cities. They are working hard on improving infrastructure for startups, and Techpark in Priština is one of the biggest startups in the region. Luka noted a special program dedicated to developing women’s skills to enhance their employment, especially for women in remote locations. Kosovo is following the digital highway initiative.

Mr Damjan Mancevski (Minister of Information, Society and Administration of the Government, the Republic of North Macedonia) said that the main challenge is not having enough skilled people. Exposing children to the digital world will result in faster digital transformation. Their plan is to invest 50 million in rural areas. Mancevski touched upon cybersecurity challenges noting that once North Macedonia becomes a member of NATO it will be more exposed to cyber-attacks. There is a proposal to set up a regional cybersecurity training centre, which he believes would help the region collaborate better, as for the region to advance, ‘cooperation is crucial’.

Ms Doina Cinari (Deputy Minister, Ministry of infrastructure and Energy, Albania) said thatAlbania is the only country in the region that has built an interoperability platform with real time information for business, people, and public administration. Their government is using an e-services platform to communicate with its citizens and so that people can communicate directly with the government, which is the ‘Albania that we want’. Cinari considers connectivity to be crucial, and she notes that in Albania they have good mobile coverage and broadband. While preparing the area of connectivity they are moving in two directions:

  • preparing citizens for digital work, including ICT curricula for teachers
  • preparing people for a digital economy.

Mr Saša Dalipagić (Deputy minister, Ministry of Communications and Transport, Bosnia and Herzegovina) noted that in Bosnia and Herzegovina currently work is being done on an important strategic document related to communications, including new law for electronic communications and development of a strategy for access to broadband. It is expected to pass soon a law on electronic identification and to establish a legal framework for cybersecurity. Policy on the development of a digital society has been adopted. The software industry in the country is growing, and Dalipagić considers that development of a ‘digital policy will stop youth leaving the country, which is increasing day by day’. It has been noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina positively surprised its citizens by showing political commitment and willingness for digital development including signing an agreement for lowering roaming prices.

 

By Aida Mahmutović

 

[1] *This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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