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07. April 2017.
1st Dialogue for Change - Insight Into the Discussion
First Dialogue for Change, held on April 7 in Metropol Palace, was a successful event as we immediately saw concrete positive reaction stemming from the event, as we understand that activities on expansion of the Action Plan for Implementation of the Strategy for E-Government are ongoing with the aim of including the important segment of M-Government !
The event attracted more than 50 participants from FIC and the ministries and enabled open discussion that is expected to bring us further progress in tackling the issues of digitalization and telecommunications. Discussion evolved mainly around e-signature, e-document and its archiving, E-Government and m-Government, as well as direct operator billing. The event was also promoted in media, by both press release issued by FIC and coverage by news agency Tanjug reporter at the event.
In the introductory speech, FIC Vice President Ingeborg Øfsthus said that Dialogue for Change was meant to promote exchange of knowledge, inspire change, make concrete conclusion and result in joint actions. As such, it is envisaged to be held regularly, she said. FIC Vice President outlined the importance of digitalization and telecommunications, saying that “times of papers, stamps and fax machines are long gone”. This puts double challenge for the authorities in Serbia – to keep up the pace in improving regulations in a rapidly changing environment and to find funds for financing the infrastructure, Ingeborg Øfsthus said, adding that FIC members can help with overcoming both challenges. “We in FIC want to help as our companies are not only following but also implementing new policies worldwide”, she said. In terms of financing, private sector can engage through private-public partnership models, concessions or other means in order to bridge the gap, FIC Vice President said.
In the first part of the panel, dealing with regulations, focus was on the Law on e-commerce and Law on Electronic Communications. Digital and E-Commerce Committee President Jasmina Vignjevic said that in the public discussion on the e-Commerce Law FIC focused on the e-signature, with mixed results in terms of their incorporation by the Government. “Our ideas were for the electronic identification to be defined in the unique way, no matter whether we talk about relations with the state administration, e-commerce or banking”, she said. As she reminded, feedback came from the authorities that there was the issue of the fragmentation of the legal system in Serbia. She pointed out to the positive developments, including: regulating e-signature and e-document in a single piece of legislation; admissibility of the document converted in the electronic form as evidence; and regulation of the service of trust in a good way for preventing abuse. “We think it will all contribute to decreasing the quantity of paper used”, she said.
Telecommunications and IT Committee President Marko Jovic said that the companies are negatively affected by the uncertainties related to the delays in the adoption of the Law on Electronic Communications. “We are aware that after the adoption of the Law, there will be the need to adopt by-laws, and until it is all done we as the industry cannot adapt our operations and use the benefits of the new opportunities brought by the law”, he said. “The Draft envisages the regulation of the cloud services, and if it remains this way, this will really bring us significant improvement”, he outlined. As another significant improvement, he cited that the Ministry recognized the need to tackle the cross-border data transfer which avoids unnecessary costs as more than one country can be covered from the unique centre. He raised the issue of the accessibility of infrastructure for the industry, as optical network will be much needed for implementing the 5th generation technology.
The Minister of the State Administration and Local Self-Government Ana Brnabic said that the 1st June will mark a big step in the digitalization in Serbia with the start of the operation of system linking 6 state bodies having in possession 80% of the data on citizens – Ministry for State Administration, National Employment Service, Interior Ministry, Central Registry of Compulsory Social Insurance, Tax Administration and Pension and Disability Insurance Fund PIO. “Our assessment is that connecting those six fundamental data basis will by itself result in sparing 6,7 million papers a year”, she said. The Action Plan for the e-Government is being revised, in order to focus on the few basic elements which could be followed and implemented in 2017-18, and put the development of the e-government on the irreversible path, Ana Brnabic said. She recognized the need for a proper solution for the e-signature in order for e-services to be developed.
State Secretary in the Telecommunications Ministry Tatjana Matic said that the infrastructure is recognized as one of the key issues. “We expect that by the end of the year the Law on Broadband will be in procedure. This law should respond to the requirements related to the further development of infrastructure and to the use of the existing infrastructure which is not negligible”, Tatjana Matic said. In this respect, the Ministry already got the green light from other ministries for the Action Plan on the Use of the National Telecommunication Infrastructure, aiming to organize it within a unique system, while it will still be decided on who will be in charge of management.
In a discussion that followed regarding the issues of the obligation to have printed documents for archives and of the barriers to use the e-signature in practice. Consultant of the Trade and Telco Minister Nebojsa Vasiljevic informed of a significant effort of coordination with the Culture Ministry, which will have as a result that the Law on Archives will bring the clear distinction between the archive materials and the obligations of the businesses regarding the documents. He also said that the improvement regarding the e-documents will be brought by the new instruments of electronic identification and electronic stamp. Minister Ana Brnabic added that as for now the obligation to keep the electronic construction licence in paper was scrapped, with an opinion issued to the Construction Ministry.
In the second part dedicated to the issues in practice, focus was on the way to expand the use of the e-document and overcome barriers for direct operator billing, which should enable clients of the telecommunication operators to buy content from Apple, Google store and similar international providers. The importance of enabling m-Government was also raised.
Digital and E-Commerce Committee President Jasmina Vignjevic said that despite the adoption of the Law on e-Signature in 2004, only 5% of citizens use it, and cited as reasons the complex procedures and high requirements. As she explained, the qualified signature with its high level of protection should be kept for the most sensitive transactions such as tax returns and transactions of high value, while identification with three levels of protection should be enabled for common activities. She supported the idea, also mentioned by Tatjana Matic, to use the mobile phone and its pin-code for the identification, as the penetration level of mobile phones is 129%. Nebojsa Vasiljevic outlined that the low penetration of the e-signature was also noted in the EU, and that the problems stems from the very nature of its concept: it is the instrument allowing to sign virtually every transaction, which imposes the need for highest level of protection. EU envisaged three levels of protections, further defined in standards, which are planned to be transferred in Serbian legislation. He announced that it is envisaged to enable the use of the documents with high electronic identification in the administrative procedures, with simple identification such as pass code combined with the one-time code through SMS.
Marko Jovic promoted the importance of the direct operator billing, saying that in the case of acquiring the applications from Google Play and Apple, that are in 99% used on the mobile phones, mobile operators don’t act solely as intermediaries but provide value added service. Despite the fact that Law on Payment services envisaged the possibility to provide value added services without registering as e-payment institutions, such registration is suggested by the Serbian authorities, he said. Minister Ana Brnabic expressed view that such the direct operators billing wasn’t exclusively value added service, adding that by giving green light for such transactions to the operators could expose the state to the problems with those who registered as the e-money institutions. To this, Marko Jovic further clarified FIC view that the payment service would be an application that would enable the sole transfer of money for buying things that are not electronic, such as cinema tickets or sending flowers to someone. “But here we talk about the services that are used on a mobile phone”, he said.
Telecommunications and IT Committee President also raised the issue of the m-Government, saying that there was no need to follow the expected path from paper documents through e-Government to m-Government. “We can immediately go to the most advanced things”, he said. Minister Ana Brnabic said that the m-Government wasn’t particularly tackled in the Ministry’s Action Plan as it was considered as part of the development of the electronic Government. “We could review together the Action Plan and if there is something in particular that could be done for the m-Government it could be added to the text”, she said.
In a conclusion, State Administration Minister Ana Brnabic said that Serbia is on the good path to develop digitalization and e-services. “We think that in the short term we will have the notable difference compared to the current situation”, she said. Marko Jovic outlined the FIC expertise and experience, and willingness to provide support in the domains of digitalization, e-government, m-government and new services. Jasmina Vignjevic said that it was one of the most successful FIC events she assisted to, in terms of presenting practical problems to the state representatives and witness their constructive approach of understanding.
All panellists provided statements to Tanjug after the event. So far, info about the event was published 14 times (12 on web-portals and 2 in print), including detailed text on Blic e-portal and news in print daily Politika. FIC will follow up with letters to the Minister Brnabic and State Secretary Matic on several key issues that were raised in discussion, to trigger further action.