Communicating digital transformation to the citizens – an important contribution to bridging the gap
Digital transformation is changing our lives in ways we could not have imagined even a few decades ago. It has brought new opportunities and challenges, and it is transforming the way we live, work, and communicate with each other. However, communicating digital transformation to citizens can be a challenge, especially in the Western Balkans, where there is still a gap between legislative and practical implementation.
Digital transformation is not just about technology, but also about societal change. It is about using technology to improve our lives, improve our businesses, and enhance our societies. However, the benefits of digital transformation are not always clear to citizens, and many are still skeptical about the role of technology in their lives.
To bridge this gap, governments and public administrations need to communicate more effectively about digital transformation. They need to explain what it is, why it matters, and how it can benefit citizens. They need to make it clear that digital transformation is not an option, but a necessity, and that it is happening whether we like it or not.
One of the key areas where digital transformation is making a difference is e-government and e-services. E-government refers to the use of technology to provide government services to citizens, while e-services refer to the use of technology to provide services to citizens by private companies. These services can include anything from online banking and shopping to telemedicine and remote education.
One of the key challenges in the Western Balkans is the lack of trust in public institutions. According to the Balkan Barometer 2021, only 29% of citizens in the region trust their government. To build trust, governments and public administrations need to be transparent and accountable in their use of technology. They need to involve citizens in the design and implementation of e-government and e-services and ensure that their use of technology is in line with citizens’ needs and expectations.
Another challenge in the Western Balkans is the digital skills gap. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, the region is facing a significant shortage of digital skills, with only 26% of workers having basic digital skills. To address this gap, governments and public administrations must invest in education and training programs to help citizens acquire the skills they need to participate in the digital economy.
It’s all about the way we communicate
Communication is key to successfully implementing digital transformation, and citizens need to be informed about the changes that are happening in their communities.
Some of the good practices on how to communicate digital transformation to citizens include:
- Use of simple language: It is important to use plain language when explaining digital transformation to citizens. Technical jargon should be avoided. Instead, we should use terms that people are familiar with. This helps to avoid confusion and makes it easier for citizens to understand the changes that are happening in their communities.
- Providing real-life examples: People learn best through stories and real-life examples. Using examples of how digital transformation has improved services or processes in other communities can help citizens to understand how it will benefit them.
- Highlighting the societal change: Digital transformation is not just about technology but societal change. It involves changing how we think about and approach problems, and it can potentially improve citizens’ lives. Citizens can better understand why digital transformation is important by highlighting the societal benefits.
- Addressing the gap between legislative and practice: One of the challenges of digital transformation is the gap between legislative frameworks and practice. Citizens may have concerns about data privacy, security, and transparency. It is important to address these concerns and provide reassurance that their rights and interests are being protected.
- Emphasizing the role of e-government and e-services: E-government and e-services are an important part of digital transformation. They can help to streamline processes, reduce bureaucracy, and improve the quality of services provided to citizens. By emphasizing the role of e-government and e-services, citizens can better understand how digital transformation will impact their daily lives.
In the Western Balkans, digital transformation has been a key focus of public administration reform in recent years. Countries such as Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia have all made significant strides in this area, and more about these countries’ particularities and e-readiness can be found in Digital Agenda Observatory reports that followed the Digital Agenda implementation from 2020-2022. In conclusion, digital transformation is about improving the quality of services provided to citizens, and it is important that citizens are informed and engaged in the process. By using simple language, providing real-life examples, highlighting the societal benefits, addressing concerns, and emphasizing the role of e-government and e-services, citizens can better understand the changes that are happening in their communities. The Western Balkans are making significant progress in this area, and it is important that citizens are aware of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
This educational text was prepared with the financial support of the European Union. The contents of this text are the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
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.
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