A representative of the NGO Mladiinfo Montenegro attended an online conference entitled “Regional Dialogues for the Digital Agenda”, organized on January 22, 2021 by the Metamorphosis Foundation from northern Macedonia. The event is part of the project “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA”, which partners Levizja MJAFT from Albania, Open Data Kosovo, NGO 35MM from Montenegro and CRTA – Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability from Serbia.
The conference was opened by Bardhyl Jashari, Executive Director of the Metamorphosis Foundation, emphasizing that digital transformation and the internet contribute to economic development and innovation at the global, regional and local levels, as evidenced by ICEDA research, that not all citizens from all walks of life are aware and benefit digital transformation, which as an end result should improve their lifestyle.
Then, Miša Bojović, a senior researcher from the organization CRTA, addressed the results of the research “Observatory for the Digital Agenda: initial research on the state of e-government development and digital literacy in the target countries of the Western Balkans 2020”. The research is part of the Digital Agenda Observatory, a tool with a special methodology that will monitor the implementation of the Digital Agenda in the Western Balkans in Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, northern Macedonia and Montenegro during the project.
The aim of the research is to provide a regional perspective and a starting point for further measuring progress in these areas in relation to the Digital Agenda, as well as to provide additional recommendations for improvement.
Some of the key research findings are:
– The efforts in bringing the broadband internet to all the citizens of the Western Balkans region are well recognized, however, countries need to be more diligent in updating their strategic and regulatory documents. Countries are late with harmonization of legal acts and even more in delay with the implementation of innovations.
– Digitalization of services in the Western Balkans region is mostly driven with financial aspect, and most of the electronic services (e-services) provided are intended for the business sector. Governments should be induced to define their criteria for introducing e-government services based on the citizens’ needs.
– Resistance to digitalization in one part comes from the establishment of public servants. The reform implies changing of their long-term routine, the need for more education, changing of procedures, adapting to new technologies, etc. There is a generational gap in being accustomed to e-technologies and what is inevitably normal and easy on younger population remains difficult for those that were introduced to it in more mature ages.
– Having in mind that all of the Western Balkan countries aspire to membership in the European Union and still have to harmonize with the EU standards in terms of democracy and the rule of law, the Digital Agenda remains one of the segments to work on.
In line with the research findings, a list of 18 recommendations for improvement in the priority areas was presented, which jointly provide a map for the improvement of the Digital Agenda in the region, which are available in the research.
After the presentation of the research, a discussion was opened, which was attended by representatives of civil society institutions and organizations from the Western Balkans. Among the representatives of the institutions were Romina Kostani – Director of the Directorate for Innovation and IPA e-Government (Albania), Fjola Restelica Ahmeti – KODE project in the Ministry of Economy and Environmental Protection (Kosovo), Bojana Bajić – Director General of the Department for Digitization and Information Systems in Ministry of Finance (Montenegro), Solza Kovachevska – State Adviser at the Ministry of Information Society and Administration (Northern Macedonia) and Žarko Dakić – Informatics Advisor, Member of the City Council of Pančevo (Serbia).
The purpose of digitalization is to simplify the process and improve the lives of citizens, and the Covid-19 pandemic further emphasized the importance and need for digitalization of institutional services, their simplification, as well as citizens’ literacy for online use of these services, instead of the traditional waiting at the counters. Raising collective awareness of the benefits of digitizing the entire population was also one of the conclusions.