Extended Meeting of the e-Government WG: Revealing Regional and Global Trends In The Digital Transformation of The Public Administration Ecosystem in the Context of Regional Development and Growth
The Extended Meeting of ReSPA E-Gov WG Group, "Strengthening the resilience of public institutions in the context of digital transformation", discussed the potential of applying different selected approaches for strengthening the foundations for the long-term resilience of public institutions to crises and disruptive changes in societies and economies. The Meeting also shed light on using Artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber security and different tools to anticipate future challenges and ensure systems preparedness and a proactive approach.
At the event's opening, Mr Martin Klaucke, Head of Operations of the EU Delegation to Serbia, underlined that "digital transformation is one of few top priorities in European Commission" and thanked ReSPA for its intensive work on this topic in the public administration area. Mr Klaucke also noted that "digitalisation in public administration doesn't mean only providing valuable tools for the civil services but also building trust among citizens, focusing on inter-operability, proper usage of digital registers, etc.".
Maja Handjiska-Trendafilova, ReSPA Director, highlighted that "the regional digital transformation agenda is pulling together regional cooperation efforts. With the support of EU as well, it has already yielded concrete results“. Director Handjiska also underlined ReSPA's share of contribution as a relevant platform in this area, particularly on aspects of service delivery and open data evident throughout supporting the Digital Academy in Montenegro, cyber resilience capacity building in Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognising and awarding exemplary digital services and solutions as part of PA Awards initiative, organising Seasonal schools on digitisation, etc.
Globally prominent experts SiiM Sikkut, Gianluca Misuraca and Colin Van Noordt, Merle Maigre and Juhani Lemik as well as regionally renowned experts Aleksandar Stojanović, Aleksandar Mirković generously shared fundamentals and trends in digital transformation, deployment of AI in public management applicable in the Western Balkans, but also discussed many practical topics such as the difference between AI and Cyber security. Vedran Antoljak and Sandra Nešić led an interactive session with a look into the future in support of Strategic Foresight and Human Centered Design. Tamara Korsić from the Office for Information Technologies and eGovernment in Serbia presented the initiative "The rollout of key digital transformation enablers-cloud signature and user-friendly payment service" as one of the Winning ones in the Public Administration Award 2022.
Siim Sikkut shared numerous practical insights on global trends in AI, such as how to use data and manage them as sources for development, the importance of a single-government platform (which sees all users as one), the potential of Government-as-Platform for speeding up delivering services, accelerating digital economies, etc. Sikkut underlined that in digitalisation processes, "good governments don't neglect basics. They must master basics first, such as ID, interoperability, cybersecurity, registers, service standards and websites". He underlined that "tech is just a tool – how we choose to use it makes a difference! Poor design and lacking change management usually cause failure. Building management capacities to deal with this topic is the way to success".
Where does the Western Balkans public administration stands when we speak about AI and cyber security?
The use of AI in the WB public sector is in the initial phase. Computing resources are not high to the extent of presenting a significant blocking factor in introducing those technologies.
A solid vision of the WB governments where they want to be technology wise in five to ten years and operationalisation of those visions remains the main challenge. Another important aspect that increased interest was the anticipation of the trends possibly associated with Government 5.0 and Industrial Revolution 5.0, i.e. collaboration between humans and machines.
Vulnerabilities of the cyber security systems in the Western Balkans are commonly caused by many different factors such as teleworking, use of mobile devices to access data/emails in the public sector, use of social media in PA, cloud vulnerabilities, lack of digital skills and knowledge in the PA, IoT, etc. On the other hand, inadequate availability of cybersecurity professionals/Inadequate cyber security staffing, legacy infrastructure and solutions to support emerging threats, decentralised IT and security infrastructure and operations, lack of inter-organizational communication and lack of dedicated cybersecurity budget are the most common issues in the management of cybersecurity risks.
Some of the main takeaways from the Meeting:
- AI is an instrument that can help governments design better policies and make better decisions, improve communication and engagement with citizens, and improve the quality and efficiency of public services;
- Recognising this potential, Western Balkans are interested in the broader utilisation of AI-based technologies in the public sector. To achieve this aim, it is necessary to additionally consolidate the ethical and legal framework and ICT infrastructure from the perspective of maintaining the highest possible level of legal certainty and protection of the rights of citizens;
- It is necessary to build internal capacity and strengthen data management for AI and stimulate awareness, knowledge and experience sharing within national borders and regionwide;
- Design and implementation of the comprehensive cyber security framework containing Management and audit, policies and standards, Risk management, Tools and technologies, Risk reporting and corporate culture;
- Engagement of the Western Balkans professionals (IT profiles, policy designers, etc.) dealing with cyber security in PA within the cyber security networks (benchmarking and bench learning) as well as the systematic organisation of the capacity building activities (training, cyber drills, etc.) ;
- Digital transformation should be integrated with change, agile and crisis management;
- Teams should be set as multifunctional and multisectoral;
- Cooperation should envisage more substantial regional aspects in the above-stated areas with more extensive inclusion of the piloting, high-level events, and syllabus activities (including capacity building);
- Change management, i.e. setting of the organisational culture, has been repeatedly identified as a pre-cursor for a systematic approach in digital transformation/use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Olivera Damjanović, ReSPA Programme Manager and Goran Paštrović, ReSPA Expert the closing remarks concluded that “The event, per se, has been an excellent example of co-creation of the ReSPA follow-up activities with innovative ideas gained from the regional and international experts joined with delegates from the Western Balkans administration”.