NALED has left its mark on almost every word that starts with the letter e and relates to digital transformation. The priorities of this organisation over the next two years include strengthening information security and personal data protection, developing the digital infrastructure required to support the expansion of e-administration in Serbia, as well as popularising and increasing the use of e-services
NALED has always been focused on the introduction of fast and innovative solutions for citizens and the economy. During the previous period, with the help of its partners, NALED implemented numerous digital initiatives of significance. In this interview for CorD Magazine’s Beyond Digital special edition, NALED Managing Board President Vladislav Cvetković mentions just a few of these initiatives: the establishing of the new system of fiscalisation and eInvoicing; the introduction of mandatory company registration on the eAdministration portal and use of the eInbox; and the launch of electronic payments and eDelivery. Working together with the Office for IT and eGovernment, NALED implemented a project to popularise electronic services through the opening of counters in the offices of local governments, where officials are able to help all those interested in becoming eCitizens.
“We are particularly proud of the introduction of the electronic procedure for registering seasonal workers, thanks to which more than 73,000 seasonal workers have to date been effectively included in legal flows and, instead of working illegally, have gained rights for the days that they’ve worked,” notes Cvetković. “We are also proud of our participation in the creation of services and systems like ePermits, which has enabled the efficient issuance of more than 100,000 approvals for construction works annually, eCounter, which has cut the period required to make new entries in the cadastral register to just over five days, as well as eInspector, which has created a network encompassing almost all national inspections, while the next step is the inclusion of local inspections in this system. These are all procedures that we are now also sharing with other countries in the region.”
We will also gain eAgrar as of next year. What can we expect from this service?
The establishing of the eAgrar platform will enable around 450,000 farms to register more simply and four times faster than before, with costs reduced by 80%. Through the medium of this platform, farmers will be able to apply for state subsidies and receive funds significantly faster, as the relevant institutions will be able to automatically access information from networked national registers, and officials will no longer be forced to process and review documents by hand, which they previously required more than six months to do.
You’ve said that all public administration “counters” should be available via mobile devices on one eGovernment application, with access to each of them requiring just one login process. How close are we to realising such a future?
It is already a reality in some countries, and I believe it is the near future for our country. However, we are still awaited by a lot of work, as it is essential to digitise many services. The Office for IT and eGovernment has focused on the most important life events and is offering ten very important services that include the online enrolment of children in nursery or school, the scheduling of appointments for the issuance of personal documents, the obtaining of a driving license etc. The key to success in the popularisation and increased use of services lies in access to such services not being complicated for citizens. For example, one idea is for a single login to be sufficient to access all state portals and services, such as eHealth and eDiary, eTax, APR and others.
Through the eCitizen project and the opening of counters in the offices of local governments, we wanted – together with the Office for IT and eGovernment – to help citizens register their personal profiles/ accounts on the eGovernment Portal, in the case that they are unsure how to do so themselves. Likewise, it is essential to educate and inform citizens if we want to increase the use of e-services, because the results of our research show that, despite three quarters of citizens being familiar with the possibilities of eGovernment, a mere 14% of them complete administrative tasks online. Increased interest is now being expressed by the business sector, because as many as 45% of businesspeople note that they prefer to service their obligations online.
One of the topics that you’re working on, and in which we – as citizens – have yet to see tangible progress, is eHealth. What stage has been reached with this extensive and complex reform?
Progress has been achieved, but those are still only initial steps, while we need to make much bigger and more significant strides. Registering for vaccination via the ePortal is one of the services that has motivated citizens the most to turn towards eAdministration, and it has showed that we can digitise the healthcare system. The state has adopted an Action Plan for Digital Transformation in the Healthcare System until 2026 and NALED is helping with its implementation. The eHealth Card has been introduced, while the next step is to also introduce digital medical records. The ePrescription service has been introduced for medicines included on the A list and it is necessary to extend this service to also include other lists. It is also necessary to introduce the services eReferral and eSick Leave, while it is particularly important to link the state, military and private health systems in order to ensure the more efficient treatment of patients, through the further development of the Integrated Health Information System (IHIS). In combination, this will all serve to speed up the route of citizens through the healthcare system, improve treatment results, and reduce waiting times, the unnecessary repeating of analyses and the need to return to a general practitioner for new referrals…
Despite three quarters of citizens being familiar with the possibilities of eGovernment, a mere 14% of them complete administrative tasks online. Increased interest is now being expressed by the business sector, because as many as 45% of businesspeople note that they prefer to service their obligations online
Together with advancements in the field of digital transformation, the issue of information security is also increasing in importance. How far have we progressed in this area and what remains to be done in the period ahead?
Through implementation of the Local eGovernment Index (LEI) project, we gained insight showing that numerous challenges exist at the local level when it comes to the security of data stored in their databases. Only half of all cities and municipalities possess licenses for all programs, while 14% of them don’t have licenses for any of the programs that they use. Only around a dozen cities and municipalities have their own web presentations on the .gov domain, while slightly less than half employ just one IT expert and 11% don’t have any such experts. Two thirds of them note that none of their IT experts have undergone training on this topic over the past few years. When all of this is taken into consideration, it is clear that we need to do more in this field.
It is firstly necessary to improve the legal framework in this area, to strengthen capacities at the level of the state and local authorities, as well as among the businesses that manage information systems, but also to connect them so that we have one team that’s ready to defend against cyberattacks. We will present the LEI index at the start of next year, which will help us – through the ranking of local governments based on the level of eGovernment development – to better understand who needs help and in which ways. We organised numerous training courses during the previous period for civil servants at the local level, on the subject of information security, in cooperation with RATEL. Participants were trained to make timely identifications of cyber threats and protect their system successfully. This kind of training will certainly be among the priorities of the NALED eGovernment Alliance in the coming years.
Year’s end is always a time to announce plans for the coming year. What will be in your focus in 2023 when it comes to digital transformation?
The priorities for the next two years are strengthening information security and personal data protection, developing digital infrastructure that will support the expansion of eAdministration in Serbia, as well as popularising and increasing the use of electronic services. When it comes to individual areas, we will focus will on digitalisation, primarily in the domain of healthcare, but also on the development of the eSpace system for the digitising of the drafting of spatial and urban plans, the further development of ePayments, as well as the vitally important eDelivery service, which would not only enable citizens to receive all documents from the state and local authorities electronically, but would also enable them to have twoway communication with the state, i.e., through the submitting of documents via the eOffice Clerk service. Some procedures have already been introduced but require improvement, and here I would single out the eSeal, cloud signature and eArchiving services.
The eDelivery service will not only enable citizens to receive all documents from the state and local authorities electronically, but also to have two-way communication with the state and submit documents via the eOffice Clerk service
We are now also sharing many of the e-procedures that have been introduced with NALED’s help, such as ePermits, eCounter and eInspector, with other countries in the region
Through implementation of the Local eGovernment Index (LEI) project, we gained insight showing that numerous challenges exist at the local level when it comes to the security of data stored in their databases