Block 1 | Security and trust
At SEEDIG 5, we will bring together key stakeholders from the region and representatives of international organisations to discuss policies and approaches to provide for peaceful, secure and open cyberspace. Cybersecurity has become a key component of national security. It has also been a top priority for securing successful digital transformation, deployment of next-generation networks (including 5G) and for building trust in the Internet. However, by cyberspace being seamlessly interconnected and borderless, cybersecurity by its very nature is an international issue. The same applies to cybercrime. Both can be effectively tackled only by regional and international cooperation. But is this sufficient? Effective cybersecurity policies have to take various, sometimes even conflicting perspectives into consideration. Some measures for tackling cybersecurity and cybercrime threats can lead to watering down citizens’ rights. Finding balanced solutions is challenging and a multistakeholder dialogue is often seen as an effective tool that can bridge the differences and connect various perspectives. Regional and multistakeholder cooperation in ensuring cybersecurity and fighting cybercrime is also vital for South Eastern Europe and the Eastern Partnership countries.
Many of us use the Internet on a daily basis. But do we trust it? We share a lot of information online, sometimes of a sensitive nature. How aware are we about what happens with this information? We use search engines and social media platforms, which are fuelled by algorithms we know little about. Can we say to what extent our economic choices and social and political behaviours are influenced by algorithmic processes? Going one step further, as advanced technologies such as the Internet of things and artificial intelligence continue to find their way into our day-to-day lives, how much do we really know about them to be able to trust them? All in all, how do we ensure that human rights frameworks and ethical principles are considered in the development and deployment of digital technologies and services? Who should do what to bring (more) trust in digital technologies? Maybe a solution could be in combining transparency, education and awareness raising, and, where needed, affirmative regulatory frameworks. Our session will tackle these issues from a regional perspective, as a contribution of SEE stakeholders to the ongoing international debates.
Block 2 | Infrastructure and technologies for digital innovation
What technical developments are happening in South Eastern Europe? What global developments are likely to have a big impact here? How do regulatory developments affect technical actors? You have probably heard about the runout of the fourth version of IP addresses (IPv4) and the slow deployment of the sixth version (IPv6). It is creating a turbulent climate for countries and regions lacking these Internet resources, such as South Eastern Europe. Another technical issue, with not only technical but also societal and political repercussions, is keeping local traffic local. Unfortunately, we see local Internet traffic from SEE countries travel all through Europe and beyond, to get to its recipient back in the same country. You will hear from Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), who are trying to address this issue, about their work so far, as well as the challenges and issues they face. Lastly, you will find out about Network Operator Groups (NOGs), which are an essential part of the Internet community and carry out an important function on a national and local level. They connect people with similar technical interests, either at meetings or online, and they give participants the chance to share ideas and make personal connections in their communities. How are they organised in SEE and what work lies ahead?
5G is a breakthrough technology that will transform the Internet, key industries and the way we work. It is also important for realising the full potential of the Internet of things. Europe is fully aware of the importance of 5G. The EU, for example, launched strategic initiatives and set the framework for the European approach to 5G with the aim of keeping pace with the world’s leading countries in 5G deployment. The session will bring together key stakeholders to discuss 5G challenges and opportunities for the region. They will examine the readiness of SEE countries for the deployment of the new technology and for embracing the changes it brings. They will unveil regional specifics and discuss the opportunities of regional cooperation among SEE countries for faster deployment of 5G. Particular attention will be paid to cross border challenges related to technological interoperability and to the coordination of the use of the radio spectrum across the region. The participants will also share good practices, discuss opportunities for cross-border pilot and demonstration projects, and explore possibilities of cooperation within the extended region, to also include the Eastern Partnership countries.
Our future depends on the creativity of a very diverse group of people from around the world. Half of the world population speaks around 50 languages, while the other half speaks nearly seven thousand other languages, some of which use unique writing systems (or scripts). South Eastern Europe itself is a very diverse region in terms of languages spoken and scripts used. But (how) is this diversity reflected in the digital space? New generations consume online content easily available in the major 50 languages, and communicate digitally, using the default keyboard layouts installed on their devices. It seems that not enough attention has been paid to ensuring that, while the Internet and other digital technologies keep evolving, languages and scripts are protected from the risks of digital extinction. So what do we have to do today to preserve our cultural heritage? Do Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) help? What is their current status on universal acceptance?
Block 3 | Digital technologies: enhancing accessibility and skills
South Eastern Europe is lagging behind the rest of Europe in providing accessibility to digital technologies (i.e. digital information and services). In many countries in the region, there is a lack of accessibility laws and regulations, lack of dedicated funds and insufficient awareness about the importance of providing accessibility to digital technologies. All countries have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that represents a fundamental shift in the attitude about the way our society approaches persons with disabilities. But there seems to be slow progress in implementing it. There is a lack of modern human rights-based accessibility policies and laws in the region. It is therefore essential to ensuring active involvement of all stakeholders (policy makers, regulatory authorities, industry, academia, and non-governmental organisations) in shaping and implementing new accessibility policies and laws. At SEEDIG 5, we will bring together key stakeholders to discuss a way forward to ensuring that digital technologies in South Eastern Europe are available, accessible and affordable for all. Accessibility of digital technologies for persons with disabilities should ensure equal access to information and communication and to digital products and services without limitations.
The machines are coming! That was the message we heard for the last 100 years and concern of mass unemployment always came with it. Today, we often call it ‘automation anxiety’. With breakthroughs in advanced technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, some say that we are, more than ever, under a mass unemployment threat. Yet, scientific research indicates otherwise. Over the years, some jobs just disappeared, but others have emerged, because of economic growth and innovation. The future will most definitely change the jobs of today, so the real questions we should be asking are: What will the future of work mean for jobs and skills in South Eastern Europe? Is the current workforce able to keep up with the ongoing technological changes? Are we ready for the jobs of tomorrow? Are we educating the next generation on human-machine collaboration? Are we able to keep our innovators and bright minds in SEE?
Block 4 | Digital businesses: trends, challenges and regulations
The digital economy is fast evolving, digitalisation processes are speeding up, and the Internet is now part of many business activities. This is a standard phrase we hear in many discussions. But what is the real situation in the SEE region? SEE-based Internet and digital companies will tell us what it is like to do business in the region. They will talk about their success stories and outline the biggest challenges. Governments will also join the discussions, to look at the enabling environment for the digital economy. Are policies, regulations and standards an enabler or a limiting factor for accessing new business opportunities? Are SEE businesses involved in shaping the policies and standards or see themselves as spectators, or even victims? And where do they stand in front of trends such as consolidation and vertical integration? Is the digitalisation process in SEE a daunting perspective or a huge opportunity for businesses? How can SMEs and startups be involved as service providers in this transformation? What is the chance of cross-border and regional business development in the SEE countries and how could regional partnerships generate more value at faster pace?
Online content policy is a complex matter. While we all want the Internet to facilitate freedom of expression and access to information, sometimes things get more complicated. Online misinformation and disinformation, the spread of hate speech and extremist content, and copyright challenges are only some of these complex issues. How do we deal with them, while preserving Internet freedom? Increasingly, Internet intermediaries are asked to come up with solutions to address these issues. And their policies are placed under intense scrutiny. But is this the right approach? Where do governments and law enforcement agencies fit in this debate? We will discuss these and other related issues from a SEE perspective, trying to explore questions such as: What are the regulatory practices that SEE countries follow when it comes to content policy, and how do they see the role of Internet intermediaries? What is the current relationship between state authorities and intermediaries in the region? Looking at specific case studies, how are (or should be) human rights considerations integrated into the debate around tackling illegal or harmful content online? How do intermediaries contribute to protecting online rights? And is there a role for other actors, such as media and civil society organisations, in this debate?
Climate change is one of the most pressing problems the humanity faces today. The deterioration of the environment has its roots in human actions and the continuously evolving technologies have their share of blame. The digital sector itself accounts for around 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and e-waste is another challenge to the environment. How do we make this sector more environmentally-friendly and how do we educate end-users and even governments about ICT greening? Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts is among the sustainable development goals outlined by the United Nations in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But how do we get there? Looked at from a different perspective, digital technologies could be leveraged to monitor climate change and ensure environmental sustainability. What is the level of awareness of these issues in our region? What are private and public actors doing to mitigate the negative effects of digital technologies and, instead, use them as tools in ensuring a sustainable future for our planet?
*SEE denotes South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area.