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ICT Cortex – compass for digital transformation of Montenegro

On March 9, 2021, the European Commission presented the vision and directions of the digital transformation of Europe until 2030. You can find the original announcement at this link, and at the same link you can also download the complete document “2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade”, which the EU Commission sent to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee region.

The mentioned strategy is very important for defining the strategic directions for the digital transformation of Montenegro, and you can read below how the president of the assembly of ICT Cortex – Branimir Bukilić, views it from an expert point of view.

“The vision for the EU digital decade is developed around four key coordinate points: skills, infrastructure, economy, and public administration, while the EU has strategically determined these four points as goals that must be achieved by 2030.

We are pleased with the fact that we at ICT Cortex have recognized the relevant key points as the basis of our association, in order to provide the conditions for their realization and that we are therefore aware of the need to speed up the digital transformation processes of Montenegro.

When it comes to the coordinate points listed in the strategy, I’ll start with skills.

Digital skills are put in the foreground because without them all other goals are not achievable. The EU admits that it lags significantly behind other markets in terms of digital skills. It is even stated that the key digital technologies are still produced outside the EU, which is also the case with Montenegro. We understand that we are forced to import hardware systems, but we must work on educating new and existing staff, and increasing digital knowledge both qualitatively and quantitatively in companies that develop IT products and solutions so that we have the opportunity for domestic IT companies to be the bearers of digital transformation.

Digital education of citizens is mentioned as an important segment in the process:

“It is necessary for us to have digitally capable citizens who will be users of modern IT solutions and services, which will lead to a significant acceleration of Public Administration and the economy, which inevitably leads to economic growth. And we have to do this at an accelerated pace because Montenegro’s goal must not only be to reach the EU level, but to reach the level of countries that are responsible for the development of digital services, which is what the EU itself strives for. The EU target of 80% of the population with basic digital skills does not seem so far-fetched at first glance. However, we have to be careful with this assessment.”

As a link between the above and the goals of ICT Cortex, Bukilić states that the activity of the cluster aims to encourage the creation of an environment for the significantly faster creation of new IT personnel. The results of the research, which were carried out at the end of last year, showed that over 86% of IT companies or the IT sector in other companies need to create new jobs, and over 90% of respondents determined that they have difficulties in finding professional staff who can be carriers of development. For this reason, all members of the association are involved in the creation of new programs for the education of future programmers, designers, project managers, etc.

Infrastructure is an inevitable factor in any field, including IT. The EU has set high goals in this area, which are mainly related to improving the very poor share of European manufacturers of microchips, cloud solutions, and supercomputers at the global level. The goal of improving the network infrastructure, that is, the availability and quality of the Internet connection, was also recognized.

“Technologically speaking, a gigabit connection for every citizen and 5G across the entire territory of the EU may not seem like unattainable goals like in other critical areas. Somehow we in Montenegro also believe that these goals are possible or that we can get significantly closer to them by 2030. However, the economic sustainability of these goals is questionable in Montenegro. Montenegro’s aspiration to join the European Community is also justified by the fact that it is practically impossible for us to work independently on the development of microchips or supercomputers and even cloud computing. Even when we are in the EU, we should focus on other areas, and use the relevant resources of other members of the community. As for Montenegro, I would also include legislation in the infrastructure. It is necessary to modernize the existing legal solutions concerning digital infrastructure because we are aware that they have not been changed for a long time, that is to say, the dynamics of their harmonization do not follow the dynamics of technological development. In addition to these essential legal solutions, we must also work on the implementation of the adopted legal solutions that will ensure the strengthening of the domestic IT industry, facilitate and relieve new employment in the IT industry, that is, in innovative activities, trace new directions of digital education of citizens through primary, secondary and higher education. I see ICT Cortex as a particularly important link in these segments. Strengthening the IT industry will contribute to its competitiveness, the ability to carry out the digital transformation of Public Administration and the economy and create new export potentials, and these are the main goals of ICT Cortex,” concludes Bukilić.

The economy, as the carrier of the economy of every society, is the third key point of the EU Digital Compass. Experiences due to the Covid 19 pandemic both in the EU and in our country indicate that the adoption of digital skills has become necessary for many companies. Unfortunately, this global scourge has had the effect of increasing businessmen’s awareness of the need to digitize their business processes.

The EU Commission predicts that by 2030, digital technologies such as 5G, IoT – Internet of Things, supercomputers, artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality will be the backbone of new products, new production processes, and new business models based on fair data sharing and an economy based on information. Bearing this in mind, Bukilić’s opinion is that “the economy in Montenegro is very late in adopting technologies and services that have been available for a long time, let alone be ready to adopt new technologies whose dominance is predicted by 2030. In order to be competitive, the economy must speed up business processes and increase quality in every area. The acceleration of business processes can be in cohesion only with the implementation of digital services, information systems, mutual digital connection, implementation of artificial intelligence systems for predictions and assessments, and automation of decision-making. As the European Commission is aware of this, we must also be aware that the economy will not be able to keep up with technological development on its own and that it must be helped. That is why Europe aims to double the funds dedicated to innovation. It is necessary for us to make better use of EU funds, which in the irregular period will be significantly more generous for innovations in business and the digital transformation of the economy, as well as to increase support programs for small and medium-sized enterprises for the implementation of IT solutions and services and the adoption of standards. If we adequately understand the seriousness of the moment and the need to transform ourselves digitally, we will be able to generate growth that may be more than linear in relation to the EU, which is important to us in the process of reaching the European level of development.”

As a fourth, but no less important point, the EU recognizes the need for the accelerated digital transformation of public administration. The EU’s goals are to ensure that democratic life and public services are fully accessible to all citizens, including people with disabilities, by 2030. By implementing e-voting, the EU wants to achieve better public participation in democratic life. Better and simpler digital online services will enable citizens and the economy to be more efficient in their activities, as well as to have a better influence on the creation of public policies and the monitoring of the results of public administration.

It is necessary to provide publicly available services and open data in healthcare, traffic and passenger transport, waste management, the energy sector, management of income and other resources, and many other areas. The EU does not forget the judicial system in the context of digital transformation.

“Although the EU is at a significantly higher level than Montenegro in the application of modern IT technologies, it still uses the term digital transformation in all relevant documents. We get the impression that only Montenegro and the Region have to go through the Digital Transformation process in order to reach the EU level. However, from this approach of the European Commission, we conclude that this is a continuous process and that we must constantly work on the adoption and implementation of new technologies in order to be able to create economic growth, and therefore a better life for all our citizens.”

The EU estimates that, on average, it has to double all the set goals by 2030. Bearing in mind that informatics and digital systems have been available to citizens for more than three decades, with the current goals of the EU one can see exponential growth in their development and application because in eight years everything that was built in the previous 30 years must be doubled.

“ICT Cortex aims to be a leader in the digital transformation of the economy and public administration and to advance the framework and ecosystem necessary to provide digital innovation in industry and education. Aware that we can achieve Digital Montenegro only with united forces, the cluster aims to be a link between the economy, the Government, and the academic sector. I believe that together we can follow the EU Digital Compass or create our own,” concludes Branimir Bukilić, president of the ICT Cortex Assembly.

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