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Macedonia should intensify its digitalization activities, the European Commission remarks

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Regarding digital transformation, the Republic of North Macedonia has a long way ahead. Even though the county has implemented reforms in this direction, there is still much work to be done. This is stated in EC’s latest report, for 2022, on country’s EU-accession progress. The report stresses the faults that North Macedonia will have to work on rectifiying, but also the areas where progress has been made.

Portalb.mk provides an overview of the EC Report’s remarks about the process of digitalization in North Macedonia.

The remarks on digitalization are in the third cluster group, i.e. in the 10th chapter. The report states that, in general, North Macedonia is mildly prepared in most of the areas in this group. Hence, more effort is needed, especially in the areas where limited progress has been made, such as the digital transformation.

The report states that the increase in the number of digital services that people and businesses are being offered is insignificant.

Still, the report states that last year’s reccomentadions have been partially addressed, and, consequently, the country will have to do the following:

  • Finalize and approve the long-term strategy for information and communication technology;
  • Adjust the national legislation with the European code for electronic communications;
  • Continue with the efforts to adjust the national legislation with the EU’s Directive on network safety, the safety of information systems, and 5G tool package.

The report stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the digitalization of the public services has to go hand in hand with bigger efforts for education and easier access to these technologies by the vulnerable groups, which often lack digital skills.

It is stressed that a strategy of digital skills and a referential framework for digital literacy for the whole society will have to be developed and adopted. The improvement of the digital literacy is a priority in the education strategy in order to provide for digital transformation through a single intersector approach.

“The scope of digital services available on the national e-service portal with full electronic interaction has not much increased. In general, the government’s approach to simplifying the business environment is not sufficiently systematic and consistent. An improvement in the national electronic services portal is evident. In 2021, the number of beneficiaries and services registered at the e-portal has increased, but ongoing steps will have to be undertaken. The use of an interoperability system is still going with difficulties due to the lack of communication software in many of the institutions as well as the lack of will for its complete use,” the report states.

There are still institutions that haven’t yet digitiized their registries, which is lowering the quality of administrative data. The exchange of administrative data should be expanded and simplified in order to be consistently used in the decision-making process.

According to the report, the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, which is authorized to lead the process, should strengthen its capacities for performing more effective and sustainable quality control.

“The Ministry of Information Society and Administration must strengthen its capacities for digital transformation promotion. The concern about the independence of the electronic communication regulator is still present. The Law on electronic communications should be adjusted to the EU’s acquis. The regulatory body approved the sub-legal acts for implementation of the amendments in the Law on electronic communications. They predict new authorizations for the regulator regarding the issuing of previous security approval for the installation of 5G equipment on part of the telecommunication operators” stresses the report.

The report also states that the Draft-law for network and information systems security still isn’t yet adopted.

“North Macedonia still hasn’t adjusted its national legislation with the EU’s regulation on electronic identification and confidential services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS regulation). Regarding digital transformation, the long-term strategy for information-communication technology  (2021-2026) still hasn’t been adopted “, states the report.

A bigger effort and better cooperation between institutions are needed for the modernization and digitalization of the public sector. The quality of data in the population’s registry should be improved and continuously confirmed with other registries.

According to the report, additional adjustments with EU’s acquis dating from 2019 is necessary for the use of digital tools.

“During the reporting period, North Macedonia continued successfully to participate in the Western Balkan Digital Agenda and completely implement the Regional roaming agreement. The implementation of the national operational Internet plan 2019-2023 was postponed again.   The implementation of the national strategy for cyber security 2018-2022 was accelerated and the country officially introduced the European emergency number 112,” states the report.

However, communication between emergency services still isn’t appropriate and human resources are insufficient.

The report states that the Council for Judiciary digitalization has intensified the operations for the implementation of the IT strategy. Five pilot courts received IT equipment provided by foreign donators. The draft of additional IT personnel depends on securing working conditions that are competitive with those in the private sector.

According to the report, the digitalization of the economy is progressing, but the competitiveness of domestic businesses can be improved through a wider selection of public electronic services.

“Regarding the e-trade, the National Bank announced the 61% rise of online transactions made by people in the first half of 2021. Regarding statistical performances and digital competition, collecting data on basis of indicators of the economic index and digital society (DESI) is deemed as available and totally adjusted up to 87%, states the report.

The report concludes that the continuous assistance by the EU has promoted the country’s digital transformation, introducing almost 70 out of the first completely automated electronic public services for the people and businesses, and continues to support the reforms in the rule of law, public administration and public finances. Next year, the country should accelerate the reforms in the area of digital links.

The European Commission’s report about North Macedonia’s EU accession progress was presented on the 12th of October to the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs.

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