Technology should be used to make life easier for the citizens, reduce barriers and provide easier access to services. For that purpose, the necessary conditions should be provided and appropriate tools should be developed, however it should be done equally for all citizens and a proper solution for their needs should be found, pointed out Milan Tancheski, Director of the Centre for Social Innovations “Blink 42-41” from Skopje, at the third session of the international conference “Digital Transformation for Citizens” which is being held today and tomorrow in a hybrid format – physically at the “Marriot” hotel in Skopje and online through the “Zoom” platform.

The manner to achieve this, i.e. to facilitate not only the access to services, but also the communication of the citizens and the institutions of the government, and thus partly the solution of their problems, through examples from their countries, in addition to Tancheski, was explained by Marija Suzic, from the Institute for Development and Innovation from Serbia; Kristina Mihailovic from the “Parents” Association from Montenegro; Antigona Uka from the Kosovo Centre for Remote Education, as well as Françeska Muço from the Young Professionals Network from Albania.

The most prevalent procedure that has been digitalized or should be digitalized in the Western Balkan countries is probably kindergarten and primary school enrolment. Milan Tancheski and Marija Suzic from Serbia and Kristina Mihailovic from Montenegro spoke that this is partially introduced or should be introduced, as one of the goals of the project “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA”.

Speaking about the digital platform “mZaednica”, which functions at the level of municipal services, and is developed by the Centre for Social Innovations “Blink 42-41” from Skopje, Tanceski clarified that the enrolment of children in kindergarten or school is one of the elements that this platform should introduce. Now, the platform enables communication and obtaining services in some municipalities, and the idea is to function at the level of the entire territory.

Such platforms or solutions within ICEDA have been developed in Serbia and Montenegro.

However, inequality, not only in terms of digital services at the municipal level, but also at the central level, is a problem in Serbia, even though the country has taken big steps in terms of utilizing technological opportunities. Some solutions are insufficiently adapted for the vulnerable groups, and this must be overcome, recommendedsaid Marija Suzic, from the Institute for Development and Innovation.

“All services are not equally available to all citizens, and in some municipalities a child can be enrolled in a kindergarten through a digital procedure, while in other municipalities this option is not available. In addition, the right to compensation for maternity leave can sometimes be exercised, and sometimes this is impossible. The government should provide better support, e-services must be available to everyone,” she pointed out.

In Montenegro, which has relatively the smallest population of all Western Balkan countries, but also in the Balkans in general, one problem has been resolved – now, in order to get a medical certificate required for enrolment in kindergarten or school, the parents no longer need to go to the health centres, they can download and print it at home.

Digital literacy is one of the main obstacles

Perhaps the main obstacle in terms of digital transformation of the societies is the low level of digital skills of the citizens, and work is being done on that issue in Serbia and Montenegro, and also in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia, through instructions in text format or as video lessons, some of the participants explained.

Digital literacy in Kosovo is at a low level, not only among other population groups, but also among university students, pointed out Antigona Uka from the Kosovo Centre for Remote Education.

“What is interesting is that 98 percent of the Kosovo’s territory is covered with internet connection, which is the highest percentage in Europe. This is an advantage that must be used, and therefore we must work on tools that will be used even in preschool age,” she pointed out.

The need for the development of digital skills is also significant in Albania, where even though there is a high percentage of population’s access to the internet, the insufficient training for digital tools further increases inequality, emphasized Françeska Muço, Secretary General of the Young Professionals Network.

The international conference “Digital Transformation for Citizens” continues tomorrow at the Marriott Hotel in Skopje and online, via the “Zoom” platform. Live broadcast of the conference is also availablet on the Facebook page of the project.
The conference is organized within the “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA” project, co-financed by the European Union. The goal is to increase the engagement of citizens in the creation of the digital agenda.

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