Digitalization is the path to economic development in the Western Balkans

The countries of the Western Balkans are relatively new to the introduction of eServices, but there is consensus that the digitalization process is the path they must follow, in order to be a useful service for citizens and the economy, but also due to clear connection between economic development and digital transformation.

In just five years since digitization was set as one of the development priorities with the establishment of the Office for IT and e-Government and the involvement of the entire Government, Serbia found it itself in the group of countries with the highest index of development of e-Government in the world.

In the United Nations report, Serbia ranked 40th out of 193 countries with the highest index of electronic government development in the world,” said the director of the Office for IT and eGovernment in Serbia, Mihailo Jovanović, in the first panel dedicated to digital transformation. at the Core days 2022 conference: Partnership for a more competitive region.

Republika Srpska followed the same path four years ago and founded the Ministry for Scientific and Technological Development, which has been intensively working on the digitization of services provided to the economy, administrative bodies, and citizens ever since. In this process, the local self-governments represent one unit with the republican authorities and are equal partners in all activities, said Deputy Minister Denis Turkanović.

“From 2018, we managed to digitize almost 60 administrative procedures, and at the moment we have about 200 active projects dedicated to the further development of eGovernment. In the future, we are waiting for the World Bank to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the needs for further development of eServices, which will help us to map the priorities and needs of our citizens”, said Turković.

The deputy mayor of Pristina, Alban Zogaj, said that in addition to the new administrative procedures, citizens in Pristina can now apply online for construction permits and pay all utility bills.

“We are currently working on a smart traffic solution. We have installed cameras throughout the city that will monitor air quality, inform citizens about traffic jams, but also monitor increased noise in populated areas, which is one of the most common communal problems in the city,” said Zogaj.

NALAS program director Jelena Janevska emphasized that smart cities are the future, as confirmed by the analysis of the impact of covid, which showed that digitization was the main tool to deal with the crisis that occurred.

“A holistic approach to solving real-life challenges of citizens using technology, increasing the human and financial capacities of local governments, and improving multi-level management are the basis for the successful implementation of the smart city concept in Southeast Europe. “Smart cities mean that we have smart people, a smart economy, and much more,” Janevski said.

The Director of the Center for Research and Policy Making, Marija Ristesca, referred to the gap that exists between men and women in business in access to finance, markets, supply chains and clusters, and concluded that the role of digitization is to remove that gap. Using the gender-responsive investment climate methodology of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Risteska recommended the introduction of more EU services aimed at enrolling children in kindergartens, housing for the elderly, and other relevant needs, which mainly fall on women.