Photography from the second panel “Cyber resilient community”. Ena Bavcic and Andrej Petrovski, Director of Technology at SHARE Foundation (Serbia) PHOTO:

The Western Balkan countries lack capacities for protection against cyber-attacks, and the governments do not have the political will to lead the processes in this field. This, among other things, was ascertained in the panel discussion “Cyber resilient community”, during the second day of the international conference “Digital transformation for the citizens”, organized by Metamorphosis Foundation.

Bardhyl Jashari, Executive Director of Metamorphosis Foundation, who was also the moderator in this panel discussion, said that in order to make a society cyber resilient, the society must possess the necessary knowledge and tools.

Bardhyl Jashari, Executive Director of Metamorphosis Foundation. Photo:

“When it comes to cyber security, you need to anticipate, expect cyber-attacks, know how to deal with them and how to recover from them, and continue to work with all sectors of the society in order to prevent their recurrence in the future. And the society must be resilient, because everyone has a role to play, we, as a civil society, the academic community, the media, the government sector and everyone using digital devices. Our society will become cyber resistant when each one of us shall possess the necessary skills and tools for safe navigation and when our personal data are not at risk, when our integrity is not at risk, as well as the right to freedom of expression”, said Jashari.

Ena Bavcic, Cyber Security and Civil Society Coordinator at the Europe and Central Asia Division within the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) (Switzerland) pointed out that one of the most important challenges is the lack of capacities of the governments in the Western Balkans.

“We have had many initiatives to strengthen the activities and commit governments to work on cyber security and cyber threat response, all part of the capacity building. However, what we have to keep in mind is that many of these initiatives are under-resourced and under-represented in governments that would lead them. Even though we have a lot of people, it is really difficult to get some of their time and make them do something. There is also not enough political will to move things forward, as well as a lack of political leadership in this sector, even though cyber security is not a political issue. But considering that all government institutions are led by politicians, the lack of political will may imply insufficient resources in the institutions in charge of cyber security”, said Bavcic.

Ena Bavcic, Cyber Security and Civil Society Coordinator at the Europe and Central Asia Division within the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) (Switzerland). Photo:

She also added that most countries do not have a minister in charge of cyber security, and although most countries have strategies, these strategies are not being implemented properly because cyber security is not their priority.

Bavcic also mentioned the recent cyber-attacks, pointing out that governments do not notify citizens in a timely manner and this also has an effect and causes great panic. According to Bavcic, the countries do not advocate enough for the protection of human rights during cyber-attacks, especially on social networks, and there is a lack of individual responsibility for cyber security.

Andrej Petrovski, Director of Technology at the SHARE Foundation (Serbia), emphasized that the biggest problem for cyber security is corruption, namely the supply of low-quality software by companies close to friends or family members of officials.

“I am aware that governments simply do not have the money to invest in cyber security, however the problem arises when there are tenders for software, technology or similar procurement, that their friends or family members get and when the quality of the product offered by that tender is not what it should be. We have had several such cases in Serbia, but also in Albania, Montenegro, where large state-owned companies bought software that was practically developed by their relatives, through corrupt agreements which led to the significant citizen data leakage. If you ask me, this is the biggest problem with cyber security that practically stems from the lack of justice and the existence of corruption. Hence, if the government had not spent so much money on the procurement of poor quality software, the number of incidents, and their frequency, would have been smaller”, said Petrovski.

He also listed several cases of cyber-attacks where some state institutions were “paralyzed”, and information about millions of people leaked.

“In Serbia, the Geodetic Authority was attacked by malware that requested ransom and for several weeks it was under “siege”, and not a single transaction could be made for purchase of land, inheritance, etc., and this practically caused a complete paralysis of the system, but we also had attacks on the Privatization Agency when the personal data of 6 million people leaked. In other words, these are examples of outdated digitalization, we have carried out investigations, but what is missing is accountability from the country or the prosecution or the judiciary, added Petrovski.

Adrian Besimi, Vice-Rector for Academic Planning and Digitalization at the Southeast European University, spoke about the lack of computer skills among citizens, adding that some faculties do not have computer skills courses at all.

Adrian Besimi, Vice-Rector for Academic Planning and Digitalization at the Southeast European University. Photo:

“We work in a society in which we have inherited the education system and lectures are still held in a classroom and we do not seem to want innovations in education. There is a lot of resistance from the faculty employees, who do not want to change anything and it happens everywhere in the world, but it is more prominent in the Western Balkans. It is the same case with the computer skills courses. We have analysed the majority of educational programs in North Macedonia, and most of them do not have the subject “IT skills”. Most of them do not even have any subjects related to computer skills during their studies, more specifically this is the case with the faculties of law, medical sciences and architecture. I do not know if they are not willing to introduce it as a subject, but it is very important that they have cyber security training,” said Besimi.

As for professional diplomas in cyber security, he announced that there is only one such diploma, at the “Goce Delchev” University in Stip and one that has been announced at the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering in Skopje, and unfortunately these are the only studies in that field.

“My point is that we don’t do enough, sometimes because we are not sure if we should, sometimes we cannot decide what is best for the students, or those decisions are made by student or faculty councils, that are not professional enough and believe that other skills are more important,” added Besimi.

Cyber security is more than a complex technological challenge. It imposes building a culture based on a high level of awareness and preparedness by all stakeholders in the society, including competences for managing cyber risk, in order to preserve our way of life and continue to use the benefits of digital transformation.

This session analyses the manner governments promote cyber security behaviour throughout the society, the challenges and urgent priorities for strengthening the country’s cyber resilience and the role of the civil society in that regard.

You can follow the entire conference at the project’s Facebook page .

The conference is organized in a spirit of a comprehensive and efficient digital transformation based on the needs of the citizens, which leaves no space for endangering human rights and dignity, nor for the digital exclusion of any community.

The conference brought together representatives of institutions, the civil society, media, academic institutions, activists, practitioners and citizens in one place, offering them space to explore digital transformation through the prism of smart e-government, the digital gap, privacy, artificial intelligence, cyber resilience and hybrid warfare.

On the first day, the conference was opened by Slavica Grkovska, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Good Governance Policies, Government of Republic of North Macedonia, Azir Aliu, Minister of Information Society and Administration in North Macedonia and Bardhyl Jashari, Executive Director of the Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society.

Link to the original post: Digital transformation for the citizens: The Western Balkan countries do not have the capacities to protect against cyberattacks |