Svilanovic: Digital transformation of society crucial for the region

Apr 18, 2018 | Press Release

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The first ever Western Balkans Digital Summit, bringing together Prime Ministers and Ministers responsible for digital agenda from the Western Balkans (WB), EU Berlin Process participants, European Commission (EC), Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), representatives of IT industries and businesses, academia, and youth, opened in Skopje today.

The Digital Summit, as one of the Digital Integration components of the RCC-developed Multi-Annual Action Plan on a Regional Economic Area (MAP REA) for the WB6 is envisaged as an annual event that is to combine existing efforts and develop recommendations for the future cooperation among the region’s economies, focusing on the essential topics of building a digital future: trust, security, e-government, industry, society and the economy.

The Summit was opened with the WB Prime Ministers panel on integrating the WB6 in the pan-European digital market, followed by the presentation and ministerial political reflection of the regional study on the impact of digitalization on the prosperity of the WB.  

At the opening of the Summit, the host, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev expressed great pleasure to host the first regional Digital Summit for the Western Balkans, which is to begin the era of Digital Integration of the region.

“Digital Revolution will remove geographic borders. This global economic trend provides enormous possibilities that we should use. It affects all our citizens – young and old, making our economy and the region globally competitive. New technologies will create jobs, economic prosperity, and growth, with new skills, creative and fresh ideas. If we want to create future for us and our children we cannot miss out on digital integration. It can be best achieved through regional cooperation, an irreplaceable tool for joint progress.”

European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Ivanova Gabriel thanked Prime Minister Zaev for hosting this first Digital Summit in the region adding that digital transformation of our societies had brought us together in Skopje today.

“Digitalisation, with no doubt, is a major driver of change and progress. I am personally committed to having the citizens in the center of our action and benefit from the digital revolution. It is an opportunity not to be missed. We are convinced that we should walk this road together – EU and the Western Balkans, as digitalization makes no exceptions. It is an integral element of the Western Balkans to benefit from this increased ability and opportunity, provided by the new EU enlargement strategy and Multi-Annual Action Plan for a Regional Economic Area. I and my team are working hard to deliver on Digital Integration of the region.“

Secretary General Goran Svilanovic, who gave a keynote speech and moderated a Prime Ministers’ panel, expressed satisfaction over  the 1st in the coming series of Digital Summits in the region,  which marks the milestone in implementation of the MAP REA, endorsed by the region’s leaders last year in Trieste, in the area of digitalisation.

“Digitalisation and new technologies move very fast, changing the entire societies and the ways we think and work. This Digital Summit undoubtedly shows the readiness of the region to take up this challenge, enabling their economies to compete on the global scene and providing numerous attractive opportunities for their citizens. The RCC remains committed to see this process through, supporting the region in its digital integration.”

Close to 800 participants and 50 speakers are expected to take part in the several panels during the next two days, covering 4 major thematic platforms: 01 Digital skills – a collaborative, coordinated and targeted digital skills capacity building; 02 Trust and security – regional and international partnerships for safe and secure open cyberspace; 03 Digital environment networks and services, connectivity and access – the right framework conditions for digital connectivity in Western Balkans; and  04 Digital economy and society – towards a digitized Western Balkans: Improving region’s digital performance and digital competitiveness.

An integral and important part of the Summit is  Digital EXPO, which will gather up to 50 companies in the digital industry from the region and wider, showcasing their innovative products and services to the public, and networking with potential partners from government and business sectors.

Simultaneously with the main event, there is a Startup Camp, envisaged as a side event where founders, entrepreneurs, investors and experts from the Western Balkans will have an opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences, and elevator pitches.

Two important panels: ‘Digital Talks’, providing a platform to individuals with fresh perspectives and management ideas to speak and to discuss recent contributions to the understanding of the digital economy and its impact on modern societies; and ‘Media in the Digital Age’ are to close the summit on both days, respectively. On top of that, the Summit is to devote due attention to combating fake news at the conference bringing together high-profile journalists and representatives from regional and global media as well as government representatives to talk about this impending very dangerous phenomena.

The Government in Skopje is hosting the Summit, co-organized by the RCC in cooperation with the rest of the Western Balkan Governments, European Commission and German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.