Key Takeaways from the Seventeenth International Conference


Година : 2021

The seventeenth edition of the international conference, Democracy in the Digital Age: Challenges and Opportunities took place between 30 November – 3 December in a hybrid environment, bringing together speakers, trainers and participants from the conference room in Skopje and from around the world. The conference intended to gather practitioners and theorists of a large array of topics representing the pressing challenges and opportunities of the digital age. It provided room to exchange ideas in interesting panel discussions, room to learn through trainings and workshops, as well as room to act through an intensive four-days open data hackathon.

Photo: Vanco DZambaski


The conference was opened by Julian Vassallo, Deputy Head of EU Delegation, Erik Janowsky, USAID North Macedonia Country Representative, Jeton Shaqiri, Minister of Information Society and Administration, Kristina Mand, Senior Expert on e-Democracy as e-Governance Academy, Estonia and Bardhyl Jashari, Executive Director at Metamorphosis Foundation. The speakers of the opening session addressed different aspects of digitalization- from digital services, benefits of open data, media literacy and disinformation, setting the ground for all the sessions that followed in the conference.

The conference was additionally enriched with the inspiring lightning talks by Lauri Tabur, Change Management Expert at the Estonian Center for International Development, who spoke about digital services and its opportunities; and Jakup Kalensky, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council who focused on the means through which disinformation threatens democracy today.

Among the topics that were deliberated through panel and roundtable discussions were e-engagement, open data, media literacy, artificial intelligence and disinformation. However, the conference also provided space for three trainings in the area of cyber security, personal data protection and legal aspects and self-regulation of misinformation All three trainings covered issues essential to the discussion of challenges and opportunities in the digital age.

Photo: Vanco DZambaski


A novelty of this year’s edition of the conference was the open data hackathon which brought together three competing teams, working on creating solutions of public value based on public data. The winning solution, developed by the Web Pillar – Data Consulting team, plans to map schools, important data about them as well as their distance from sports betting sites and casinos. This is a very promising application that will raise awareness about the financial resources and infrastructure of schools in North Macedonia. This solution will make good use of available data and will require the opening up of even more datasets – naturally contributing to the demand and publication of datasets by institutions.

The conference was attended by 631 participants, 202 male and 429 female, from 27 countries, which enriched the international character of the conference.

The livestream on Facebook reached over 7644 and we are very proud to have been able to allow multiple means for the participants to access the conference.

E-society brought up many interesting views and conclusions and some of its key takeaways include:

  • digitalization needs to be an overarching/a horizontal approach stretching throughout all policy areas and it cannot stand alone as a policy in itself.
  • e-engagement gains value from the interaction and the purposes it serves/ the value it generates. Particularly because technology is so potent – it must be advanced consciously to ‘leave no one behind’ and serve the vulnerable groups as much as everyone else.
  • Proactive engagement in setting standards and ethical guidelines for automated decision making is of utmost urgency as is the importance of ensuring complete protection of personal data.
  • Disinformation is a complex problem and so hard to track and fight, yet it always boils down to the most efficient remedy – media literacy and critical thinking.
  • The role of civil society to advocate, educate, work with institutions and the public alike to keep all these debates going and to seek solutions to them in the interest of all of us remains as important as ever.

Below are the links to some of the sessions of the conference:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 4

Photos: Vanco DZambaski