On the 6th of December 2022 in Skopje, North Macedonia, the first day of the 18th annual edition of the International Conference E-Society was held; this year on the topic “Cyber Resilience for Freedom and Security”. The conference was organized by Metamorphosis Foundation, and it was dedicated to building a cyber-resilient society with digitally competent and responsible citizens.

The conference was opened by the Ambassador of the EU Delegation, David Gere, who, among other things, noted that North Macedonia lags behind in its readiness to face cyber threats, adding that a strategy exists, but the implementation is slow. Among the existing weaknesses that were registered by the EU, is the lack of basic things, such as the identification of competent authorities and the establishment of practical cooperation among the institutions to prevent cyber threats.

The ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to North Macedonia, Dirk Jan Kop, in his introductory address concluded that cyber resilience is at the top of North Macedonia’s concerns, so there can be no talk of security without the cyberspace. He added that the country is prone to conspiracy theories and is a good place to spread disinformation and that is why at the moment the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in synergy with The Metamorphosis Foundation is working on a regional project to detect disinformation and foreign malignant influences on democracy.

The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to North Macedonia, Matthew Lawson, also gave opening remarks, mentioning that the best balance between freedom and security is to have answers to three questions: whose is the internet, who uses the internet and who regulates the internet? Since the answers are not clear, finding a balance between freedom and security is a rather difficult task.

In his introductory video address, the Deputy prime minister in charge of good governance policies, Slavica Grkovska, said that a cooperation is a must when working on cyber security and cyber resilience. “We should not look at cyber security as a cost, but as an investment that on the one hand protects our country and our citizens from external attacks, but on the other hand, allows strengthening citizens’ trust in institutions and the system,” Grkovska said.

She pointed out that on the initiative of her cabinet, North Macedonia became the 103rd member of GFCE-Global Forum on Cyber Expertise.

The conference was also addressed by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Vladimir Anchev, who referred to digital transformation as a key driving force for the development of society, and recognized the growing dependence on information and communication technologies that increase the need for a functional cyber defense system.

The session with the opening remarks was concluded by the Executive director of the Metamorphosis Foundation, Bardhyl Jashari, who said that there are many challenges, the world is changing rapidly, digitalization contributes to the faster changes, and the digital technologies make the services better, and faster. He added that with this dynamics of change, the problems are big, and as a country and region we need to adapt.

The event continued with two working sessions. At the first session, the speakers discussed the status and progress of the implementation of the digital agenda in the Western Balkan countries and how to proceed with the reforms. Speakers in the first session were Snezana Nikcevic, NGO 35 mm (Montenegro), Ariana Gjuli, Open Data Kosovo (Kosovo), Aldo Merkoci, movement “Mjaft” (Albania), Predrag Topic, Bridges&creations / DX lab (Serbia), and Kristina Mand, eGovernance Academy (Estonia), and the session was moderated by Mila Josifovska Danilovska, Program Manager at Metamorphosis Foundation. One of the main conclusions of the session was that digital transformation should be sustainable, safe and at the service of citizens, which is why it should be adapted to the needs of citizens and regularly communicated with them through several different approaches to different target groups.

Speakers at the second session – -Laylo Merali, Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance – DCAF, Aleksandar Acev, National Center for Ccomputer Incident Response MKD-CIRT at the Agency for Electronic Communications, Svetlana Nikoloska, Faculty of Security at the University “S. Kliment Ohridski ” – Bitola, Megi Reci, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (Albania) and hvale vale, Association for Orogressive Communication, discussed the existing cyber security capacities regarding privacy rights, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and anti-discrimination in the Western Balkan countries, and offered their recommendations for inclusion of human rights standards in cyber security management. The session was moderated by Marijana Janceska, specialist for openness and participation in Metamorphosis Foundation. One of the conclusions of this discussion was that we must have educated citizens with the knowledge and skills to face the challenges of cyber security, while the state must be efficient and guarantee adequate legislation.

The conference continues tomorrow, on 07.12.2022 in Hotel Marriott, Hall Ballroom 1, with panel discussions on the topics ” Privacy Matters: Surveillance and Biometric Data Processing“,” Implementation of the Personal Data Protection Law good practices, challenges and future steps “and” Security Threats to Democracy and European Efforts in Fighting Disinformation“, as well as an inspiring speech on the topic” the Effects of Disinformation and Foreign Malignant Influences on the North Macedonia’s Democracy“.

As part of the e-Society conference.MK, at the Cinematheque of North Macedonia there will be a screening of the film “Sisters” by Dina Duma, followed by a discussion “Cyberbullying: Real Life Consequences”.