Manja slova Veća slova RSS


Digital Society as an Opportunity for All Citizens

Digital Society as an Opportunity for All Citizens
Published date: 12.07.2016 14:44 | Author: MIDT

Ispis Print

Digital Society as an Opportunity for All Citizens

Apart from FDIs, solid tourism and large-scale infrastructure projects, Montenegro is very committed to building information society and telecommunication resources in supoort of the existing platforms and platforms for development of new opportunities for inclusive social development.

A number of development projects which Montenegro has launched in tourism, energy and agriculture are the foundation of the future economic growth and creation of new jobs. Development of information society, primarily based on ubiquitous availabillity of the broadband Internet complements these aspirations and is considered the bedrock for building of digital economy and further growth of the GDP – says Vujica Lazović, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Information Society and Telecommunications.

1. Which key factors have contributed the most to the Montenegrin economic development which is much more prounounced than those in the region and Europe?

In 2015, Montenegrin economy grew by 3.2% which, although lower than expected, was one of the highest growth rates in the region, surpassing the 1.7% growth in Eurozone and 3.1% in the world. The generators of the Montenegrin economic growth are FDIs which went up by 75% and loans which triggered the upwards trend following the perpetual decline since the onset of the global economic crisis. As far as the economic sectors go, tourism and complementary sectors and electricity production had the biggest influence.

2. How satisfied are you with the current state of the ongoing, large-scale development projects in Montenegro?

Considering the unstable political situation in Europe and the world and its possible effect on the willigness of investors to invest, we are more than happy with the implementation of development projects in Montenegro. Most of them are being implemented according to plan. I am mainly referring to the ongoing projects like construction of resorts in Luštica and Kumor, laying of the submarine power transmission cable, and construction of several big four- and five-star hotels. Although, construction of the motorway did not start in late 2015, we completed the pre-construction work and commenced with building the priority segment in early 2016. We are going to sign contracts stipulating construction of the second block of the thermoelectric power plant in Pljevlje soon. Although, investments in agricultural capacities and production are not individually high, they are conducive to development and very important for boosting the overall processing industry and tourism. They also complement tourism well. Personally, I would like to see more projects being implemented, particularly those that create new jobs and engage production capacities whether directly or indirectly thus changing the structure of the Montenegrin economy in the direction of lesser dependence on suitable weather.

3. Why are the negotiations about construction of the second block in the Pljevlja thermoelectric power plant so demanding?

This project has several complex aspects. During the planning and preparatory phases, a whole set of documents had to be drawn that stipulate legal, technical and economic elements. Additionally, such a big project needs cooperation on several levels and it is supported by the Montenegrin and Czech governments through the Intergovernmental Agreement that will be signed soon.

Considering the unstable political situation in Europe and the world and its possible effect on the willigness of investors to invest, we are more than happy with the implementation of development projects in Montenegro.

Considering that Montenegrin Electric Enterprise will be the investor, securing the funding that the company doesn't have at the moment while trying to negotiate a good loan deal is especially challenging. We all know just how restrictive banks are, so a lot of additional details had to be provided in order to facilitate the decision making process. Furthermore, the Feasibility Study was quite cautious in order to create the prerequisites for the banks to grant funding as soon as possible which means that the construction will be carried out with realistic resources and funding costs. Negotiation teams also had a lot of work to adjust technical specification while being mindful of the technological advancement, environmental standards, energy efficiency and profitability of the project. Investing in the Pljevlja coal mine and its further development is also going to be challenging considering that coal is the biggest expense in electricity production.

4. How much do the plans to build information society fit into the overall development plans of Montenegro?

Broadband infrastructure is the basis for development of information society in Montenegro. Investing in this segment is a must, as is the joint effort of all involved parties, the state and the operators in order to make fast broadband Internet universally available in Montenegro. As shown by extensive research, without adequate infrastructure there is no impetus for development of digital economy and, in turn, no essential growth of the national GDP which is a result of direct investments in broadband. This is also the reason why we have lofty goals in this segment which we are obliged to accomplish by the Digital Agenda for Europe. Additionally, as a tourist destination, Montenegro has been working on other Internet access projects like Wireless Montenegro which provides free WiFi for citizens and tourists in public locations. This makes us more competitive in a segment that is very important considering that, today, Internet is a basic human need. With this Internet access as the foundation and digital economy as its superstructure, our plan is to make Montenegro an open, digital society where all societal groups can profit from using modern technology.

5. What are the Ministry of Information Society and Telecommunication's ambitions by 2020 in this context?

Our ambitions are fully covered in a new strategic document called „The Development Strategy for Information Society in Montenegro by 2020“ and are divided into programme segments and goals. This is a third strategy of this type which is also a natural continuation of the action plans of previous strategies. In this strategy, we are mindful of the achieved development while having an ambitious and comprehensive view of the future. The general framework – infrastructure, security and digital economy – is the backbone of our plans. In that context, we can say that we are firmly committed to creating an advanced infrastructure and a safe national IT environment supported by the administrative and institutional capacities, as well as to building digital economy on this foundation through e-segments that we have defined in the document. SMEs are fundamental for economic development, and we are at the very beginning when it comes to focusing on start-up and spin-off companies.

With Internet access as the foundation and digital economy as its superstructure, our plan is to make Montenegro an open, digital society where all societal groups can profit from using modern technology.

Since we are still not satisfied with the level of utilisation of the Internet and technology by businesses, this is going to be our biggest task in the digital economy segment. On their part, businesses simply have to recognise the benefits and it is up to us to make this happen, both through education and creating a favourable development environment. There is nothing local and restrictive about digital economy any more and I believe that real development will ensue when Montenegrin businesses become aware of this. Also, we have numerous other tasks which, to the biggest extent, depend on the state like development of e-governance, e-healthcare, digital inclusion of marginalised groups and especially e-education, which is a big bite to chew. I would also like to highlight development of human capital. In this new document, we have tried to demonstrate that people and ideas are crucial for development of digital economy. On one hand, we need experts, and, on the other, advanced users / citizens. Our plan is to do everything in our power to create an environment conducive to development of both digital skills.

6. How satisfied are you with development of the telecommunications sector and what are the biggest challenges in the following period?

Montenegro has achieved an enviable level of telecommunications development and, considering numerous solutions that are regularly applied, our country is the regional leader. The ICT sector in Montenegro is well-developed and competitive in the regional environment primarily thanks to having strong telecommunications operators supported by foreign capital. The so-called C (communications) segment in ICT is one of the driving forces behind the Montenegrin development with the annual turnover of €300 million.

Access to broadband Internet enables both citizens and companies to communicate and produce in a much faster and more efficient way. It is exceptionally important for Montenegro to direct its efforts to faster development of electronic communications network and services, to create conditions for a healthy market competition, to secure profitability and implementation of new technology and services in this sector and to apply international standards and principles.

Montenegro has recognized the importance of information-communication technologies for the country’s development while giving a lot of attention to the ICT sector and treating it as the priority in its development plans. Development of the ICT infrastructure, e-services and promoting IC technologies are at the forefront.

The laws that regulate this segment have been harmonised with the relevant EU laws which created the main prerequisites for development of the ICT sector. There has been a lot of mindful and committed work on creating the best possible environment for development of telecommunications market which resulted in the very fast development of this sector in our country.

Our challenge for the immediate future is to make sure that Montenegro becomes a highly developed information society in which the level of IT application will be tantamount to that in the EU. This will be achieved if we accomplish the results set out in the Digital Agenda for Europe which is the first of the seven key initiatives stipulated in the Europe 2020 Strategy.

7. How capable is Montenegro when it comes to educating enough experts in these two very challenging areas?

Montenegro's capacity in this area is currently very limited. There are several study programmes for IT engineers both at state and private universities but they cover only a fraction of market needs. The study programmes are too diverse, inconsistent and scattered, and do not follow education trends in this field. This was especially highlighted in the new strategic document. Also, there is a problem with the curricula in elementary and high schools which are outdated because IT subjects are taught too late in education, they are optional, there isn't enough of them and they are not adequately devised. Handling this problem involves several stakeholders especially now, when the need for IT is simply implied in developed economies, when its inclusion in the curriculum has been growing and when computer programming is something pupils learn about every day.

8. Along with the 10th anniversary of Montenegro's independence, you also celebrated the 8th anniversary of the .ME domain. What needs to be done in order to sustain the appeal of this domain which is a sort of a Montenegrin national ambassador?

At this moment, the global domain market is the market of perfect competition. Thanks to the launch of ICANN's gTLD programme in October 2013, there are now 1,051 generic top-level domains (gTLD) and, if they manage to maintain the pace, another 349 gTL domains will be made available which brings the total number to 1,400 new generic domains on the global market. If we add to this the 253 country code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) and 22 generic domains that existed before the ICANN launched 1,400 gTLDs, we can say that have met all the prerequisites for implementing the model of the perfect / complete market competition. In this environment, a lot of effort needs to be invested in order to sustain the attractiveness of any domain, both generic and country code Top Level Domains.

The positioning strategy for the .ME domain, which is a sort of a Montenegrin online amassador in the world, and its differentiation from the growing numer of the top level domains, is based on personalised approach to Internet users. By actively promoting the .ME domain, i.e. by directly approaching Internet users, we have created a strong base of the .ME users. This kind of promotion has primarily an educational character where, by demonstrating good examples from using the .ME domain, we have created a basis for new domain content. Also, such approach has shifted the entire domain industry towards a more humane approach in the digital world. We are promoting the .ME domain as the means that will help end users to present their uniqueness in the digital world. In this way, the .ME domain has positioned itself as the most personal domain and we are confident that it will continue to be so regardless of the ever growing competition.

The ICT sector in Montenegro is well-developed and competitive in the regional environment primarily thanks to having strong telecommunications operators supported by foreign capital.

Apart from the personalised interaction with Internet users or one-on-one marketing, our Development Programme has resulted in cooperation with online giants like Facebook, Yahoo, Wordpress, Universal Pictures, Google, The New York Times, AliBaba, Naver and others which only enhances our credibility based on which the .ME domain will continue to generate growth on the global market.