Digitalization is not an end in itself, and it is not enough just to discuss and understand the potential of digital technologies, but it is also necessary to find a way to integrate them most effectively into the work of public administration, all in order to raise the quality of services provided by citizens. To this end, the Metamorphosis Foundation, together with its partners, through the project Increasing Civic Participation in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA co-funded by the European Union, awarded sub-grants through the small grant scheme for advocacy initiatives dealing with specific issues that the citizens of the Western Balkans face elated to the areas covered by the Digital Agenda.
On January 26 and 27, 2022, the team of Metamorphosis Foundation visited the sub-grantees from North Macedonia, i.e. the Center for Social Innovation Blink 42-21 and the Youth Education Forum to discuss their activities, successes and challenges they face in promoting and implementing their projects.
In partnership with Balcony 3, the Center for Social Innovation Blink 42-21 implements the project “mCommunity for e-community” through which they aim to provide high-quality e-services at the local level and increase the number of users of local electronic services. They intend to do so by providing at least 3 new e-services to the local self-government through the mCommunity in two more municipalities and thus enable citizens to easily communicate with different sectors of those municipalities, as well as providing recommendations for policies to all 81 municipalities, the Association of Local Self-Government Units of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Ministry of Local Self-Government for digitalization of services.
mCommunity is an interactive digital platform that enables citizens and local government to communicate directly and contribute together to a better municipality. The mCommunity mobile and web application promote the concept of mobile participation (m-participation) allows users to use a mobile phone, tablet or computer to communicate directly with employees in municipal sectors, to exercise rights and influence the activities undertaken by the municipality. Currently, the Municipality of Valandovo, the Municipality of Karpoš and the Municipality of Kočani are part of mCommunity.
Together with Radio YEF and Portalb, the Youth Education Forum is implementing the project “Student Action for Digitalized Educational Services”, which aims to improve the e-services provided to students and address digitalization in higher education. Through consultative meetings with the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) and student organizations, they intend to identify student needs and create a short policy consisting of specific recommendations to improve the digital aspects of the new higher education strategy created by the National Council for Higher Education. In addition, they will organize a three-day Hackathon for digital tools/solutions for higher education, which will result in a new ready-to-use digital tool for students to offer to the MES for free use.
The political changes that have taken place in the country in the last few months, starting with the local elections where there was a major upheaval and change of many mayors and municipal administration, to the change of many ministers and members of their cabinets, were a great challenge for both initiatives. The non-recognition of the need for digitalization by certain institutions has also been found as a great challenge, while in the municipalities where there is political will, there is a lack of capacities for the application of digital tools. In the coming period, grantees will make additional efforts to overcome these challenges and successfully implement their initiatives to facilitate citizens’ access to public e-services and to enable them to feel the benefits of digitalization.
The project “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA” is implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation (North Macedonia), e-Government Academy (Estonia), Levizja Mjaft! (Albania), Partners for Democratic Change (Serbia), NGO 35mm (Montenegro) and ODK – Open Data Kosovo (Kosovo). The project is implemented with financial support from the European Union.