Issue no. 24 of the SEEsummary, published on 31 January 2019, by SEEDIG, in collaboration with DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform. This issue covers Internet governance and digital policy developments that occurred in South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area in December 2018 and January 2019. Also included: a list of upcoming events (February 2019), a look at Internet Governance Forum initiatives which had meetings recently, and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders. Contributors to this issue: Maja Ćalović, Sabajete Elezaj, Desara Dushi, Lianna Galstyan, Andrijana Gavrilović, Olga Kyryliuk, Efthymia Papadopoulou, Mirko Savković, Dušan Stojičević, Oliana Sula, Sorina Teleanu. Design by Charalampos Kyritsis.
Network operators updates
Across South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area (SEE+), electronic communications operators have announced either enhancements to their networks and services availability or plans to expand their offerings. In Croatia, OiV (Odasiljaci i Veze) has activated an Internet of Things (IoT) network that covers the cities of Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, and Osijek. The infrastructure is based on LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) technology and is expected to enable a wide range of smart services for smart cities, utilities, agriculture, and transport. A similar development comes from Ukraine, where lifecell has concluded the first phase of its project dedicated to the deployment of a narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network for smart devices. On the same market, Intellecom (trading as Giraffe) is looking into the possibility of participating in an open tender for a transition to 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology, planned to be launched by the Ukrainian regulatory authority. In Romania, Orange has upgraded its 4G voice calling technology to ‘HD Voice Plus’, to improve service quality. In Serbia, Telenor plans to invest over EUR 100 million in overall telecommunications infrastructure, improvements of mobile Internet services, and development of digital technologies, among others. Telemach announced plans to invest EUR100 million in Slovenia by 2020, to consolidate its market position, especially in the wireless communications sector.
European Investment Bank supports digital TV project in Romania
Romania’s efforts to enable the implementation of digital terrestrial television will be supported by the European Investment Bank (EIB), which is lending EUR 9.78 million to Romanian public company Societatea Nationala de Radiocomunicatii SA (Radiocom) to partially finance the digitalisation of the current broadcasting infrastructure. This project will involve the roll-out of a digital TV broadcasting network based on the DVB-T2 standard, to enable the switch-over from analogue to digital terrestrial television distribution. The network will cover 228 broadcasting sites and is planned to carry the signal of the national free-to-air TV operator covering some 94% of the population and 81% of the country. The switch to digital terrestrial television is also expected to contribute to more efficient use of the radio spectrum.
Calling Kosovo*? Start with +383 from now on
Starting from 15 January 2019, Kosovo* has fully switch to its own international number prefix +383 dialling code, which was received back in December 2016. According to the Regulatory Authority for Post and Electronic Communications (ARKEP), the code has already been implemented in fixed telephony, while its implementation by mobile operators Vala and Ipko has been postponed twice (June 2018 and October 2018). From January on, previously used foreign countries’ codes will no longer be valid in Kosovo*, and operators who do not adapt to the change are to be fined EUR 10 000 monthly.
.rs domains in minority languages
Starting December 2018, the .rs domain (the Serbian country-code top level domain (ccTLD)) is supporting the registration of domain names including specific letters of 13 different languages spoken by officially recognised minority groups in Serbia – Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Montenegrin, Romanian, Romany, Slovak, Slovene, and Vlach languages. Through this measure, .rs joins the IDNs (Internationalised Domain Names) family, allowing domain names to include Latin characters which are not contained within the English alphabet. IDNs under .rs have been available for registration starting mid-December 2018. The initial registration period for .rs IDNs is only open to registrants of existing .rs domains, who are able to register the corresponding versions of their domain names which include characters previously unavailable. All new registrants also have the right to register with a corresponding .rs IDN. Registrations fees remain the same same as the fees for .rs domains.
Greece, Cyprus, and Israel to cooperate in cyberspace
In the framework of the fifth Trilateral Summit held in Beersheba, in December 2018, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel agreed to cooperate and share information, knowledge, and best practices in the field of cybersecurity. With that aim, the parties signed two trilateral memorandums of understanding – on cooperation in preventing cyber attacks, and on the exchange of information on the regulation of smart cities and homes. In addition, Israel and Greece signed a framework agreement on cooperation in satellites and their applications, while a bilateral agreement on strengthening joint defense for critical infrastructures was concluded between Cyprus and Israel. The parties also decided to expand collaboration in the field of information and communications technologies (ICT). They discussed the reduction of the roaming tariffs and Mobile Termination Rates (MTR) as a high priority matter and expressed willingness to schedule a workshop on international roaming regulations, with the aim of drafting a plan for a regional roaming agreement..
UNIDIR’s Cyber Policy Portal also covers SEE+ countries
In late December 2018, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) launched its Cyber Policy Portal, a tool providing policymakers and other cybersecurity experts with access to critical information in the cybersecurity policy area. The Cyber Policy Portal includes a database of concise but comprehensive cybersecurity policy profiles of all 193 United Nations member states – including countries in SEE+ – as well as 12 regional organisations, with data drawn from open source and voluntarily-submitted material. The portal allows users to access country-specific information on cybersecurity policies, structure, legal framework and cooperation initiatives, compare different states and organisations, as well as access multilateral frameworks in the cybersecurity arena.
Over 2 500 Bulgarian children passed online safety training in 2018
In 2018, more 2 500 children from 28 schools in 15 Bulgarian cities completed online safety training conducted within the Cyberscout Programme run by the Safer Internet Center and telecom company Telenor. At its fourth edition in 2018, the programme provided children with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills for the safe use of the Internet and mobile communications. It included two-day interactive training where children learnt about online risks and how to protect themselves from such risks, as well as how to share the knowledge and skills acquired with their colleagues.
Safe Children educational platform launched in Serbia
In Serbia, telecom company Vip mobile has launched an educational platform called Bezbedni Klinci (Safe Children), with the goal of promoting safe Internet use among children and assisting parents in their efforts to keep children safe online. Experts from the Pedagogical Society of Serbia took part in the creation of platform content, with support from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development. The platform offers parents various lists of games, educational applications, and channels related to child online safety.
Romania among the least expensive countries for fixed broadband in the EU
In December 2018, the European Commission released a study on fixed broadband prices in Europe in 2017. Overall, Romania, Latvia, and Hungary have the most attractive rates for broadband Internet in the EU. The majority of offers (Single Play, Double Play with fixed telephony or television services, and Triple Play) in these countries belong to the cluster of the least expensive in the respective baskets (12–30 Mbps, 30–100 Mbps, and 100+ Mbps). Consumers in Romania and Hungary enjoy the lowest price offers for Single Play (standalone Internet) across all speed baskets. Furthermore, Romania is among the least expensive countries regarding Double Play with fixed telephony for the highest advertised download speeds (30–100 Mbps and higher). Regarding the Digital Agenda milestone of 50% households having 100 Mbps subscriptions or higher by 2020, as of July 2017 Romania, with 65,5%, was among very few EU countries that have reached the indicator.
Romania and Ukraine showed positive dynamic in 2018 Internet speed measurements
According to data collected worldwide by the Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence platform, in 2018 mobile Internet download speeds increased more than 15% compared to the previous year, while fixed broadband speeds (both download and upload) registered a growth of over 26%. On a global level, fixed broadband speeds were nearly twice as fast as those on mobile. The world’s average download speed on fixed broadband was 46.12 Mbps. Standing out within the region, Romania is among the top five countries with the world’s fastest download speeds over fixed broadband in 2018, with a speed at 109.90 Mbps and preceded only by Singapore (175.13 Mbps), Iceland (153.03 Mbps), Hong Kong (138.31 Mbps), and South Korea (114.67 Mbps). Ukraine, in its turn, is closing a group of five countries that showed the most significant increase in mobile download speed. The increase reached 82.1%, with higher indicators achieved by Costa Rica (194.6%), Myanmar (121.8%), Saudi Arabia (113.2%), and Iraq (92.3%). The upload speeds also largely improved in Ukraine (172.5%), with higher percentage demonstrated only in Bangladesh (179.2%).
Greek broadband voucher scheme approved by the European Commission
Under the EU rules for state aid, the European Commission has approved a voucher scheme developed by Greek authorities to support the take-up of ‘superfast broadband services’ – services with a download speed between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. Although Greece has a robust infrastructure in place to allow the provision of such services, the take-up is considered low. The voucher scheme is intended to address this issues: vouchers can be activated by users until 31 March 2020, and they will cover part of the initial set-up cost, as well as the monthly fee for a maximum of 24 months. The initiative is expected to help bridge the existing digital divide in Greece and allow better use of the already existent broadband infrastructure.
Discussions continue on a Regional Roaming Agreement for Western Balkans
On 24 January 2019, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) organised the second round of negotiations on a Regional Roaming Agreement for the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). The agreement is intended to introduce the ‘Roam like at home’ (RLAH) approach for users of electronic communications services in Western Balkan countries in a staggered process: a further reduction of roaming costs by July 2019, and a full RLAH approach with zero extra roaming costs in 2021. The meeting was attended by ICT ministries and regulatory authorities of the Western Balkan countries, the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology and the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations in the European Commission, and the RCC. RCC Secretary General, Ms Majlinda Bregu, encouraged the involved countries to sign the agreement in April.
SEE+ countries get EU funds for the development of public Wi-Fi
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovenia are among the countries awarded funds for the installation of state-of-the-art Wi-Fi equipment, as part of an EU initiative called WiFi4EU. Hundreds of municipalities in these countries will build free Wi-Fi spots as part of the programme. The WiFi4EU scheme aims to promote free Wi-Fi connectivity for citizens and visitors in public spaces such as parks, squares, public building, libraries, health centres, and museums everywhere in Europe and has a budget of EUR 120 million between 2018 and 2020.
Romania outlines digital policy priorities for its mandate at the Presidency of the Council of the EU
Between January and June 2019, Romania holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and ‘digital transformation’ is planned to be one of the Presidency’s highlights. According to the country’s Ministry of Communications and Information Society, the Romanian Presidency will focus on five main areas in the field of digitalisation and digital policy: cybersecurity, innovation, digital skills, and women in tech. ‘Ensuring a high level of digitalisation and competitivity is an essential priority of the Romanian Presidency. […] We want Europe to become a global leader in all digital areas which have an impact on economic growth: 5G development, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, super computing, big data, and research and development’, noted Minister Alexandru Petrescu. Throughout its mandate, Romania will host several events focused on the outlines priorities, which will conclude with the Digital Assembly, on 13–14 June 2019.
ICT Consortium established between Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, and Turkey
In the context of Bakutel 2018 – the 24th Azerbaijan International Telecommunications and Information Technologies Exhibition and Conference – ministers of ICT in Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, and Turkey agreed to establish a consortium for the four parties to cooperate on the further development of ICTs. The countries agreed to coordinate activities in areas such as satellite communication, postal services, cybersecurity, development of telecommunications infrastructure, and management of technology parks. The envisioned forms of cooperation will include joint training, research works, and exchange of knowledge and experience. Azerbaijan suggested to set up a working group composed of representatives of the four ICT ministries, to put in practice the agreed forms of cooperation.
Serbia to establish E-Inspector system to fight grey economy
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Mr Rasim Ljajić, announced plans for the establishment of an E-Inspector (E-Inspektor) information system within the public administration. The system will be banding 42 inspections together, to better coordinate the fight against the gray economy. E-Inspector is to be launched later in 2019.
Croatia launches Digital Tourism project
The Croatian Ministry of Tourism has presented the Croatian Digital Tourism project, aimed to digitalise several public services in the field of tourism, to the benefit of both service providers and tourists. The project is part of the national E-Croatia 2020 Strategy and is financed from EU funds. By the end of 2020, five public services are to be developed, improved, an/or interconnected: the central tourist register, the e-Visitor system (for the check-in and check-out of guests in Croatia), the portal croatia.hr, and the e-services dedicated to administrative and non-judicial procedures that businesses in the touristic sector have to undertake (e.g., obtaining necessary permits).
Central electronic registry of Serbian nationals established
The Office for Information Technologies and eGovernment of Serbia revealed that a central electronic registry of Serbian nationals was established within the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government. This electronic registry will be available to all state administration and local government officials that have the right to access the data stored. However, the registry is not yet complete, as many nationals records dating from 1940 until 1980 lack information that needs to be completed, and some city and municipal administrations have missed the deadline for transfering data.
E-commerce in Greece: current status and estimations
A study conducted by the ELTRUN Laboratory of the Athens University of Economics and Business shows that around 40% of Greek consumers make online purchases. The most popular online shopping categories among Greek customers included accommodation, clothing, electronics, event tickets, and books. The category with the most significant increase in 2018 was the ready-made food, which reached EUR 500 million in online shopping value. The study also shows that more than 7 000 Greek companies operate a digital sales channel, two-thirds of them being medium or large enterprises. Greek online stores are the most popular among online buyers, 85% of them making over 80% of their online purchases from domestic stores. It is estimated that the value of products and services purchased online in 2019 will be worth over EUR 5 billion.
Serbia launches an e-commerce project
Serbia’s Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications (MTT) launched the project ‘Strengthening e-commerce in the Republic of Serbia’, to foster more rapid growth of the e-commerce sector in the country. The Ministry has also established an interministerial working group tasked with identifying obstacles in the development of e-commerce and preparing an Action Plan for the Promotion of Electronic Commerce in the Republic of Serbia for 2019–2020. Both initiatives aim at identifying and removing barriers that hinder and slow down the development of e-commerce on the domestic market, allowing the country to achieve competitive advantages in the region.
Educational programme to prepare more crypto developers in Ukraine
The Blockchain Association of Ukraine (BAU) and the Ukrainian National IT Factory (UNIT) have teamed up to launch the ‘Blockchain Hub Academy’, an educational programme on cryptocurrency technologies, aiming to address the deficit of developers in the field. The four-month course is divided into two segments focusing on Bitcoin and the underlying distributed ledger technologies associated with the first cryptocurrency, and on related technologies and developments that appeared after Bitcoin.
Croatia to tighten online content policy rules
The Minister of Culture of Croatia, Ms Nina Obuljen Koržinek, announced that Croatia plans to introduce legislative measures to prevent and counter hate speech online. According to a draft law on illicit behavior on the Internet, social network managers are to be held responsible for content and comments that are published on their social networks. Likewise, a revision of the Law on electronic media is intended to make editors responsible for comments that are published on electronic media platforms.
Albania blocks access in gambling websites
In October 2018, the Parliament of Albania passed a law forbidding online betting and other forms of gambling as of January 2019. In line with this law, the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority has officially instructed all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block access to all websites included in several lists put together by the Gambling Surveillance Authority and the General State Police Directorate. The websites were found by the above-mentioned institutions as violating the law recently entered into force. Upon receipt of the notification from AKEP, each ISP is obliged to immediately block access to the identified illegal content and to notify AKEP once these measures are implemented.
Georgia IGF | 11 December 2018 | Tbilisi, Georgia
The 4th Georgian IGF took place on 11 December in Tbilisi, Georgia, bringing together around 100 participants from all stakeholder groups. The forum was supported by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Georgian National Communication Commission. Topics discussed included Internet access, safe Internet, ccTLDs and IDN ccTLD (.GE and .გე), content and copyright. A special presentation was delivered on the sustainability of the Tusheti Community Network Project, implemented by the Internet Society, to provide WiFi access to the rural mountainous area in Georgia. Also included in the programme was a special session devoted to capacity development programmes of various organisations (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC)) and IGF initiatives (SEEDIG Youth School and Fellowship Programme).
Fellowships, scholarships, events and other engagement opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders
SEEDIG Internship | February – May 2019 | Online
SEEDIG is looking for highly motivated interns to assist the Executive Committee in organising SEEDIG 5 and carrying out other activities. Interested candidates are invited to apply until 3 February 2019.
Call for proposals: Media and information literacy projects | 28 February 2018
The regional initiative ‘Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media’ invites civil society organisations based in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia to submit project proposals aimed at the advancement of media and information skills of citizens in the region. The deadline for submissions is 28 February.
Youth Dialogue on Internet Governance | 16–18 June 2019 | The Hague
The Youth Dialogue on Internet Governance (The Hague, 16–18 June) is the youth programme of the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG). It features a three-day meeting (preceding EuroDIG 2019) full of discussions, learning, and networking, to prepares youth participants for their participation in the EuroDIG process. Applications can be submitted until 31 January 2019.
South East European / RIPE NCC Regional Meeting (SEE 8) Call for Presentations | 16–17 April 2019 | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The RIPE NCC is organising a regional SEE meeting in Sarajevo, on 16-17 April 2019. The event will focus on the latest developments in the Internet industry and will seek to identify and discuss the specific issues that affect the region. The Programme Committee is now seeking content proposals from the community for presentations. The deadline for submissions is 17 February 2019.
ENOG 16 Fellowship Programme | 3–4 June 2019 | Tbilisi, Georgia
The Fellowship Programme is aimed to support members of the Eurasia Network Operators Group (ENOG) to attend the ENOG 16 meeting. By attending the meeting, fellows are expected to further develop their professional or academic career, contribute to policy discussions, and network with colleagues in the region. The deadline for application is 19 April 2019.
Data Journalism Awards | 13–15 June 2019 | Athens, Greece
Submissions for the 2019 edition of Data Journalism Awards are now open, and data journalism teams from around the world can apply for an all-expenses-covered trip to Athens, Greece, and the GEN Summit + Data Journalism Awards 2019 ceremony, taking place in June 2019. The deadline for applications is 7 April 2019.
13th European Summer School on Internet Governance (EuroSSIG) | 14–20 July 2019 | Meissen, Germany
EuroSSIG invites applications from students and individuals working in the private sector, government, or civil society groups. The 48-hour academic programme will include theoretical lectures, as well as practical presentations on Internet policy. Students from developing countries might apply for the global fellowship programme. These fellowships are limited and do not all include travel costs. The application deadline is 31 March 2019.
Women in IT Conference | 31 January – 3 February 2019 | Novi Sad, Serbia
Forum Digital | 6 February 2019 | Kyiv, Ukraine
QuBit Conference Belgrade 2019 | 7 February 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia
1st Meeting of the ITU Centres of Excellence (CoE) Steering Committees for Europe and CIS Regions | 7–8 February 2019 | Warsaw, Poland
International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing (ICAISC) | 8–9 February 2019 | Crete, Greece
Innovation Assessment in the Growing IT Sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina | 13 February 2019 | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cyber Security Forum 2019 | 14 February 2019 | Moscow, Russia
Mobile Operating Systems Conference | 14–16 February 2019 | Cluj-Napoca, Romania
CRO Commerce 2019 | 15 February 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia
Blockchain Economy Istanbul Summit | 20 February 2019 | Istanbul, Turkey
IDC Security Roadshow 2019 in Kyiv | 21 February 2019 | Kyiv, Ukraine
International Conference on Digital Society and eGovernmnets| 24–28 February 2019 | Athens, Greece
International Conference on Universal Accessibility in IoT and Smart Environments | 24–28 February 2019 | Athens, Greece
Criminal Justice in Cyberspace | 25–27 February 2019 | Bucharest, Romania
ITU Workshop ‘Smart Sustainable Cities: Technological Trends, Success Stories and Future Prospects’ | 26–27 February | Minsk, Belarus
The SEEsummary is produced on a best effort basis, by our team of volunteer editors. Each month, the editors scan local and regional media, as well as websites of public institutions and other organisations, and compile what they find to be some of the most significant digital policy developments.
The SEEsummary does not claim to be a comprehensive source of information. Despite our efforts, we may miss some things happening across the region. To help us cover as many significant developments as possible, we invite you to share with us news from your countries.
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