The role of governments is to ensure an appropriate implementation environment for the efficient digital transformation of society, which is why the Serbian government is striving to establish sustainable cooperation. The Serbian government passed a decree in July on the establishment of the Office for Information Technology and Electronic Governance.
The task of this Office will be to consolidate state IT resources, ensure the connectivity of various information systems and provide strong support and the basis for the development of Serbia’s e-governance.
“Digitisation must be a continuous and comprehensive process that will encompass different spheres of society. It will change our lives fundamentally. My goal is for citizens and businesses to be at the centre of electronic administration, to no longer be couriers of the state, but for them to become their service. This is a key condition that will enable faster growth of the competitiveness of our economy and more innovations, a different relationship between the state and its citizens,” said Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.
For this issue of CorD, we asked our interlocutors to answer the following question:
Prime Minister Ana Brnabić has included digitisation and the introduction of e-government among the fundamental priorities of the Government of Serbia. How would you evaluate the market environment for the realisation of this complex process and, in your opinion, what are the priorities of implementation?
Digitisation – Among The Priorities Of The Serbian Government
Digital transformation is a fundamental change in all spheres of human society, prompted by the use of information technologies. In a narrow sense, digital transformation refers to a way of doing business “without the use of paper”, which can be applied in the economy, but also in different segments of society, such as public rights, entrepreneurship, education, medicine, mass communication and agriculture. However, as of recently, the digital transformation has a much broader meaning in the Republic of Serbia
With digitisation having been set as one of the priorities of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, digital transformation has begun to penetrate all pores of our society, leading to fundamental changes reflected in the emergence of an efficient, economical and transparent public administration. Thanks to the great commitment of Prime Minister Ana Brnabić to the comprehensive approach and the philosophy of digitisation, previous individual, ad hoc and often unsuccessful attempts to computerise certain segments of society have transformed into a systematic approach to changes, with quick and tangible results, to the satisfaction of Serbian citizens and the country’s economy.
By establishing an efficient and modern e-government system, which is implemented authoritatively and professionally by the newly established Office for Information Technology and Electronic Administration, the Government of Serbia is showing its deep commitment to education reforms, reflected in the introduction of IT and computer studies as a compulsory subject from the fifth year of primary school, increasing enrolment in IT courses at universities in Serbia by 20 per cent and successfully conducting retraining programmes, as well as incentives for IT entrepreneurship through changes in legislation and enabling better conditions for start-up companies to launches their businesses, represent the evident results of the Government and Prime Minister Brnabić.
In the e-government domain, the Office is dedicated to implementing “tangible” projects that ease the life and business operations of the citizens and business of Serbia on a daily basis: automatic verification of health booklets for 150,000 employers in Serbia means savings of about 500,000 hours a year or around 1.5 million euros; the inclusion of increasingly more municipalities and cities in the eZUP information system for health insurance ensures that citizens no longer have to be couriers carrying documents from counter to counter, rather that is done for them by the state, while all banks, payment institutions and electronic money institutions are currently being invited to secure all types of electronic payment options to the e-Government portal, thereby fully enabling the use of all e-government services via the internet, without the need to visit the counter of a bank or post office.
By establishing an efficient and modern e-government system, which is implemented authoritatively and professionally by the newly established Office for Information Technology and Electronic Administration, the Government of Serbia is showing its deep commitment to education reforms
The Office is also dedicated to infrastructure projects, perhaps not directly visible to citizens and the economy, but essential to establishing control and security of state data. Approaching its finalisation is the process of forming a national data centre, which will house the data, equipment and information systems of the state administration, but has also started to develop feasibility studies that should show the justification for constructing the state centre for ensuring the continuity of operations. Finally, with amendments to the Law on Information Security, the Office also became a CERT of state bodies.
The Office also promoted the National Open Data Portal, as modern infrastructure for establishing the data of state administration and local governments, public and local enterprises. At the very beginning, the portal included data from 10 organisations that were organised in about 50 sets of data, with almost 140 different files.
The expectations are that this first state interactive portal will gather hundreds of organisations, thousands of files and dozens of users in the next two years. The real value of this portal is in cases of its use – value added by raw data, the value created by start-up companies and other IT organisations by processing data through various application solutions and making new profits on the domestic market. The National Open Data Portal is directly linked to the Open Data Portal of the European Union. This project is being implemented in cooperation with the UN Development Programme in the Republic of Serbia (UNDP) and thanks to donations from the World Bank, the UK Government’s Good Governance Fund (GGF) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Huge Potential For Further Growth
Advanced technologies are currently the driving force behind what we call the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which has the potential to transform all industries and simultaneously impact on the social, economic and living environment
The digital transformation of the business and social environment represents enormous growth potential. According to EU analysts, there are three dimensions of change that are significant to digital transformation: technological changes, social changes and changes to business models.
The most important benefits that digital transformation will bring to Serbian companies include merely accessing customers via the internet creates enormous growth opportunities. Statistics show that SMEs which have actively approached consumers via the internet recorded a 22 per cent greater increase in sales over three years than those companies which did not use this channel to market their products and services. Those companies that do not utilise digital technologies fully will miss out on the chance to expand their operations and create new jobs, thereby marginalising themselves.
Fully accepting the Fourth Industrial Revolution and accelerating the digital transformation process across all sectors of industry has today become a priority
It is estimated that (if all EU countries – or at least the first 15 members – achieve U.S. performance levels) as many as 400,000 to 1.5 million new jobs could be created thanks to the use of the possibilities offered by technology today. New technologies increase the development potential of the traditional industry, primarily through increases in productivity. As much as 75 per cent of added value is created thanks to the use of digital technologies in everyday operations. It is estimated that the digital economy, which now accounts for eight per cent of GDP in the G20 countries, is approaching a value of €3.2 trillion (as the value of products and services raised to the digital level).
• The digital transformation of education
• The digital transformation of public services
• Cooperation between the private and public sectors in this process
Fully accepting the Fourth Industrial Revolution and accelerating the digital transformation process across all sectors of the industry has today become a priority.
We’re Creating An Eco-System For E-Services
When it comes to digital operations, there are already fully digitised market segments. The best example is e-banking, which is available to the largest number of users, free of charge, faster and more convenient than conventional service at counters
The economy strives to rationalise business and additionally approach clients. Marketing is increasingly relocating to social networks, with companies investing a lot in IT – for improving internal processes, communicating with other companies and collecting market data.
What needs to be further developed is communication of citizens and the economy with the state in the digital format, as well as the digitisation of the public administration itself, in order to provide high-quality services with a view to rationalising the economy.
The Government of Serbia, with the support of NALED, has defined preconditions for establishing an eco-system for e-services. In addition to coordinating bodies and amending regulations, it is necessary to educate on and promote digital methods of working among officials, in order for them to feel comfortable and to accept simplification. Demonstrating that this is certainly possible is the introduction of e-permits for construction, which has brought about a revolution in the work of the administration in just a year. The goal is for offices, couriers, file covers and other classic forms of communication with the state to disappear and be replaced by e-communications among bodies and portals for users that are as simple as Facebook. The experience of other countries shows that digitisation brings savings of up to 75 per cent in the public sector, in terms of the time and costs required for implementing procedures.
In addition to coordinating bodies and amending regulations, it is necessary to educate on and promote digital methods of working among officials, in order for them to feel comfortable and to accept simplification
From the perspective of citizens and the economy, the priority in the development of e-services is introducing electronic payment methods for all public services and easing “presentation” methods of state portals, which as yet do not offer qualified e-signatures. From the perspective of the state, the priority is for all bodies to have electronic data at their disposal, which are automatically exchanged, and for procedures to flow without a paper trail, which has long been a legal obligation – through technical conditions have yet to be met.
It is evident that demand for digitisation exists on the market – it is only important for us to arrive faster from point A to point B, and to work to establish general trust in the digital world.
Enable A Digital Identity For All Citizens
We are pleased that digitisation is recognised as one of the key priorities of the Government because this is about a global process that will change today’s economy and the habits of the population to a great extent
In this context, we see e-government as digitisation in the domain of public administration, which is one of the most important prerequisites for a modern and efficient society.
The economy is very interested in this topic. Alongside IT companies and telecommunications operators, increasingly more banks, retail chains and other firms from spheres of traditional business are interested in transforming and digitising business processes and communication with clients.
We notice that the Government is focused on digitisation and the development of e-government. It is also essential to establish a comprehensive ecosystem that supports digitisation at all levels, including regulatory bodies from different areas. For example, in the domain of electronic payments, one gets the impression that there is no openness to new business models beyond traditional banking services.
It is important to establish electronic registers as soon as possible and network state bodies in such a way that they can automatically exchange data
When it comes to priorities, one of the key elements in the coming period is to enable all citizens to have a digital identity based on different levels of identification and the devices that citizens already own, such as a mobile phone. In this respect, I would like to praise the Law on Electronic Documents, Electronic Identification and Trusted Services in Electronic Commerce, which is currently in the procedure of the National Assembly. With its adoption, the foundations will be established for more flexible solutions in the domain of digital identity and the digitisation of paper documents into electronic form.
In the field of e-government, it is important to establish electronic registers as soon as possible and network state bodies in such a way that they can automatically exchange data. This will create space for the improvement of existing services for citizens and the introduction of news. Considering the 128% penetration of mobile phones, in which the share of smartphones is increasing constantly, it is also necessary to enable electronic services on mobile platforms – eGovernment.
Improving Services To Citizens
The introduction of digitisation to state institutions in the form of e-government, as well as the expansion of the implementation of electronic services in health and education, represents a logical and necessary step for the Government of Serbia with the objective of improving the functioning of services provided to citizens by the state administration
In this way, it is possible to achieve the standards that have been present in surrounding countries for some time. Digitisation in social and economic activities involves the integration of already existing information resources that are present, to a lesser or greater extent, in all spheres of society, as well as creating the basis for the development of new ones, the application of which will be a pillar of support for the further development of state services. With this, the time and costs that individuals and businesses are exposed to in their daily activities will be reduced significantly.
The need to educate all participants in these processes, the need for a systemic approach to archiving enormous amounts of information, ensuring their safety, as well as developing appropriate legislation, must be the priorities in the first stages of the realisation of our government’s activities
As is the case with all milestones in the development of society, especially when they involve a change in system functioning, sometimes “sluggish” state institutions, widespread application of information systems and their connection at all levels, implies confronting a large number of obstacles. These primarily include the necessity to educate all participants in these processes (both implementers and beneficiaries), the need for a systemic approach to archiving enormous amounts of information, ensuring their safety (and thus the safety of members of society), as well as developing appropriate legislation. This must simultaneously be among the priorities in the first stages of the realisation of our government’s activities in introducing digitisation to all sectors of its direct activities.
Considering the advantages that systematically designed and planned digitisation brings to the populations of countries where it has already been implemented, I sincerely hope that the initiative of the Government of Serbia will be realised with the fewest possible problems.
Regulatory Framework – As Soon As Possible
The digitisation of all areas of modern business is inevitable, and digitisation in the domain of e-Government can bring multiple benefits to our country and citizens. In an environment in which operating businesses are exposed to tremendous competition, it is necessary to ensure that every individual process in producing a product or service is optimised in order to ensure competitiveness
Competition is no longer represented by participants on the local market – as direct competitors, we have big global players, but also small, new start-ups that can use the internet to approach each individual customer in the country and offer their services or products. In such an environment, a public administration system based on physical counters and hard copy paper documents creates additional costs for the country itself, but also for the state which must allocate significant resources to maintain it (and those costs spill over the onto the price of products and services produced in the country). On the other side, businesses and citizens must use their own resources to perform tasks related to public administration (go to the counter, store/use paper documentation etc.). As such, it is of great importance to have an effective e-Government system.
We need to invest a lot in education at all levels – both citizens and government officials – so that the new e-Government system is used on a large scale
When it comes to priorities, the most important is the regulatory framework that should be adopted as soon as possible (particularly laws on the electronic document, electronic authentication and trusted services in electronic operations, as well as the law on e-Government), along with bylaws that will provide a detailed definition of implementation in practise. It is only after that usage of different means of electronic authentication and signing will overcome technical complex solutions based on certificates that are, unfortunately, too complex for a great number of citizens to use. In parallel with this, we need to enable systems for electronic payments on e-Government portals, but also develop new services that citizens will be able to use remotely. It is necessary to change e-Government from being a “burden” and additional cost to becoming a service for citizens that will help them in whatever they are doing, thus enabling them to produce cheaper products and services and be more competitive on the domestic market, but also – much more importantly – on the global market.
We also need to invest a lot in education at all levels – both citizens and government officials – so that the new e-Government system is used on a large scale.
Full Support For The Digitisation Of State Administration
SBB Serbia BroadBand provides full support to projects aimed at modernising the administration and has been contributing to this initiative for years by building a network that should help make progress on digitisation
We fully support the initiative to digitise the state administration. Improvements in this area will bring great benefits to all citizens of Serbia, through savings in time, reduced administration, the efficient resolving of problem, transparency and many other advantages brought by the digital system.
What’s more, SBB has for years been building a network that should help these kinds of projects, with the ubiquitous use of the internet, digital networks and new technologies by the population. Modernisation projects like this one will always have our full support.
Prerequisite For Economic Survival
Companies and individuals have numerous modern solutions, technologies and innovations available to them that provide numerous opportunities to improve working processes, but also establish completely new models of operating
Although Digitisation and the Digital Transformation are processes that are very widely discussed, and which will be among the main topics in the period ahead, they actually represent a topic-area-process that is not yet fully defined. Viewed in general terms, we are talking about the use of modern “digital” solutions aimed at improving processes and operations, in the broadest sense of the word. Twenty years ago, the beginning of mass use of the internet created the possibility for new forms of business, while today those same opportunities are offered by Cloud, the Blockchain, ChatBot etc. Nothing more than tools in and of themselves, they have huge potential that enables you to transform your services, market products and access world markets extremely quickly.
The climate for change on the market is never “favourable”, but we must start with this process as soon as possible, primarily in order for that to be an additional incentive for the domestic economy to start its own “digital revolution”
When it comes to Serbia, according to some parameters we are completely “in the game”, and even very advanced compared to the world average. Nevertheless, in some areas, we are a long way behind the rest of the world, especially when it comes to the participation of modern technologies and innovations in creating a business model in domestic SMEs, where we are still in the last century. Today, in 2017, the use of innovations and digital technologies in operations is no longer an opportunity to gain an advantage on the market, but rather a necessity and requirement for survival.
If we view the state apparatus that the Serbian Government operates in as a “business system” that provides citizens and companies with services for which we pay a price (taxes, fees, charges etc.), the introduction of e-government is a logical and necessary step in modernising those services and making them more acceptable for today’s business conditions.
The climate for change on the market is never “favourable”, but we must start with this process as soon as possible, primarily in order for that to be an additional incentive for the domestic economy to start its own “digital revolution”. Otherwise, the competitiveness of our SMEs will remain at a low level, and thus also their chances for further development and market survival.