The COVID-19 pandemic is the best indicator for the need of digital technologies, that one way or another we are all using for work, learning, studying, fun, communication, playing games i.e. for normal functioning. They will have to be developed and promoted so that all citizens will be able to have access and possibilities for safe use.

This was stated during the online event organized by the Metamorphosis Foundation, “Dialogues for the Digital Agenda” as part of the “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA” project, that was attended by the Minister for Information Society and Administration Jeton Shakjiri, representatives of the Delegation of the European Union in Skopje, representatives of civil society organizations, journalists and other stakeholders.

“If we learned something from the pandemic it is that the digital world is really important. In order to come out of the financial crisis faster, digitalization should be financed. This will have a significant influence on the improvement of the situation. We saw now that the non-investment in digitalization can cost us a lot. In the next period, our goal will be to secure systematic solutions for general electronic communication within the institutions and between the institutions. Until 2021, at least 30% of state management bodies to have an electronic system for automation of administrative procedures, and by 2024, the system to be implemented into the state administration in its entirety. And the implementation of the agreement with Mastercard for the development of innovative digital certificates for identity confirmation. To continue with the opening of service centers in all cities in North Macedonia, following the example with Skopje,” said Minister Shakjiri.

The Metamorphosis Foundation’s Executive Director Bardhyl Jashari said that the implemented research has shown that not all layers in the society or the population are aware or are seeing the gains of digital technology or digital transformation as not everyone knows how to use these technologies and not everyone has access to them.

And for that, Jashari said that several things are needed:

-The capacities of each side involved – meaning everyone has to have these skills i.e. the whole populations, if that is possible;
-Raising the awareness about the gains, but also the risks of the use of digital technologies;
-The fight against techno-phobia can sometimes be bolstered by various disinformation such as the recent inflow of disinformation concerning the 5G technology;
-The inclusion of all concerning sides in the process of setting priorities and the needs of the citizens about the selection, development, and use of digital services;
-The safety of the services and privacy to be an essential part of the development of every service since that drastically influences their use;
-An appropriate institutional framework that will allow undisputed use of digital services.

The EU Delegations’ representative in Skopje, Sanja Frkovik, said that Europe is trying to allow a competitive economy through digitalization while respecting the rights of the users.

“The European Union is striving for the technology to make a true difference for its citizens on a daily basis, to enable a strong and competitive economy that will be improved in a way that respects the European values. Through this, a digital economy should be secured that will have global competition, and the consumers will trust that their rights will be secured,” said Frkovik who explained that according to the Agreement for Stabilization and Association, Macedonia is obliged to develop and adjust its policies and legal framework in the area of electronic communications and information society with EU’s.

Mila Josifovska – Danilovska from the Metamorphosis Foundation presented the key findings from the research about the condition of the digital agenda in North Macedonia.

“The knowledge about the digital agenda is low i.e. 52.6% of the civil society organizations and 50% of the media have knowledge about it. The institutions estimate that the business sector is better acquainted with the electronic service than the citizens. About 40% of the citizens have a low level of knowledge for electronic services while 60% are on a more satisfactory level. On the other hand, 70% of the business sector has a satisfactory level of knowledge while 30% has a high-level knowledge. The national portal for electronic services is known only to a distinct group – young people and those that have good digital skills,” are some of the findings that were presented by Josifovska – Danilovska.

In the research guide for the promotion of North Macedonia’s digital agenda, among other issues, the institutions are called upon to include the civil society organizations in the creation of their policies related to the Digital Agenda, to invest in the digitalization of vital services, to make the national portal for electronic services to be more user friendly, to build capacities for civil society organizations and civil servants, but also to guarantee cyber safety.