Today, 4th April 2023, in hotel Marriott the international conference titled ”Digital Transformation for Citizens” started, organized by Metamorphosis Foundation.

The conference focused on the need for inclusive digital transformation, guided by the citizens and adjusted to their needs. In addition, young people were treated as a priority because they are especially affected by the digital transformation and they need to become digitally competent and responsible citizens as future leaders in society.

The event has invited representatives from the institutions, civil society, media, academia, digital rights activists, practitioners and citizens from the Western Balkans and Europe, thereby enabling them to debate the challengers of digital transformation through the viewpoint of smart e-governance, the digital gap, privacy, artificial intelligence, cyber-resilience and hybrid warfare.

The conference was opened by Slavica Grkovska, Vice-President of Good-Governance Policy, Azir Aliu, Minister for Information Society and Administration, as well as Bardhyl Jashari, Executive Director of Metamorphosis Foundation.

”Digital transformation is a societal, not a political process. It is important for all participants with a serious role in the overall transformation of our society into a digital society to be aware of their obligations. If we want to be more efficient, we must step up and keep pace with the developed countries”, said Grkovska.

The Information Society Minister, Azir Aliu, addressed the participants stressing that digitalization is the present and future, referring to the reforms and the advancement of North Macedonia in that direction.

”We also have a Cyber-Security Strategy that needs to protect citizens. There are forms for keeping citizens informed, especially those who know how to deal with digital procedures. As a user if I do not know how to protect myself from cyber-attacks, then everything is worthless. Institutions need to be more open for cooperation and to be interoperable. The mindset is what needs to change”, said the Minister.

The Executive Director of Metamorphosis, Bardhyl Jashari, pointed out that Metamorphosis Foundation has always been citizen-centred, in all activities aiming tо introduce digital transformation of processes.

”The digital gap in relations with the skills is a real challenge. Everyone in society needs to have the skills required to utilize the services offered by the Government. Another challenge is resistance to change, and here I am referring to more than one level. First, here is the fear of change that sometimes is based on the fear that artificial intelligence will take over our jobs, but also the resistance of the institutions to integrate new technologies”, stressed Jashari.

In the course of tomorrow (5th April 2023, 10.00 am), the conference will proceed with the panel titled How to build up hybrid war resistance?. The discussion will go along the lines of managing hybrid wars that directly undermine digital transformation efforts in the Western Balkans, because cyber-attacks sabotage the Governmental ICT-structure, while the disinformation campaigns explode and deepen current divisions spreading fear among citizens and distrust of democratic institutions.

The next panel – an hour later – is titled Protection of privacy in a world moved by AI. The topic of this panel refers to the opportunities for progress in using artificial intelligence in all societal sphere. Nevertheless, we should not intrude our privacy, violate our dignity or undermine our freedoms. This session will gather practitioners and activists working with AI to discuss its current use in the publc sector in the region and in Europe.

At 12.30 pm, the panel titled Building communities resistent to cyber-attacks will start focusing on cyber-security which is much more than a complicated technological challenge that demands building a culture based on high level awareness and readiness of all stakeholders in society, including competence to manage cyber-risks to protect our way of living and to continue benefiting from digital transformation.

In the evening (18.30 pm in “Public Room”) topics dedicated for young people are on the agenda. The discussion titled The dark side of social mediacoexisting between good and evil will be a debate to set border-lines between coexisting opportunities with advantages and challenges of social platforms.

The conference is organized in a hybrid format. Some of the participants will be physically present on the event, while others will follow an online session through Zoom platform and Facebook Live. The conference is organized within the framework of the project Increasing Civic Engagement in Digital Agenda – ICEDA, co-funded by the European Union. The conference Agenda can be found here, while the conference can be followed online here.

You can find photos from the first day here.