March 2, 2019

SEEsummary February 2019

 

Issue no. 25 of the SEEsummary, published on 1 March 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 February 2019. Also included: a list of upcoming events (March 2019) and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders. Contributors to this issue: Maja Ćalović, Desara Dushi, Andrijana Gavrilović, Olga Kyryliuk, Marko Paloski, Efthymia Papadopoulou, Dušan Stojičević, Sorina Teleanu. Design by Charalampos Kyritsis.

 

Developments in February 2019

Telecommunications infrastructure | Net Neutrality | Cybercrime | Cyberconflict | Access | Development – other | E-money and virtual currencies | Economic – other issues | Content policy

 

Telecommunications infrastructure

 

5G testing approved in Turkish cities

The Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) approved a bid by telecom companies Turkcell, Vodafone Turkey and TTMobil to conduct 5G trials in different frequency bandwidths (3.5, 3.7 and 26 GHz bands) in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara as the biggest hubs in the country. The shift from LTE to 5G technologies is expected in 2020, with the latter offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices. Turkey is aiming to be one of the leading countries in 5G applications. During the trial period, special focus will be on the development of domestic production capacity, and the cooperation with domestic producers.


Bosnia and Herzegovina will not award 4G licences by auction

The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina has decided not to auction off 4G licences to the highest bidder, but rather to entrust the introduction of  Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks to the country’s mobile operators, two of which are state-owned. The Ministry of Transport and Communications’ plan for the introduction of 4G was previously blocked at the level of the Council of Ministers, and the licence price changed three times, ranging from BAM 1 million to BAM 10 million. The regulator and the Ministry proposed that the prices should be lower, but that the operators should commit themselves to cover the country with 4G within three years.


 

Net neutrality

 

Bulgaria is one of two EU countries where network neutrality is respected, report says

Bulgaria is one of only two countries in the European Union where operators do not violate net neutrality principles along with Finland, according to a new study published by Austrian data protection NGO epicenter.works. The analysis, which included monitoring the websites of 225 mobile operators, found that two and a half years after the entry into force of the EU net neutrality regulation, net neutrality violations were observed at 186 of the monitored operators. According to experts, these practices have a negative impact on the European Digital Single Market.


 

Cybercrime

 

ECTEG regional training on electronic evidence in network investigations took place in Romania

Balkan In the framework of the iPROCEEDS Joint Project of the European Union and the Council of Europe, a five-day intensive technical training took place on 11-15 February in Bucharest, Romania. The training was run by the European Cybercrime Training and Education Group(ECTEG) and it gathered 16 law enforcement officers from South Eastern Europe. The purpose of this training was to equip law enforcement officers of the SEE+ region with the necessary skills and knowledge on network architecture and on dealing with large volumes of data in cases of electronic evidence gathering in criminal investigations.


 

Cyberconflict

 

Microsoft attributes multiple cyber-attacks in Europe to Strontium

Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) has attributed cyber-attacks against European institutions between September and December 2018 to Strontium. The attacks targeted democratic institutions, campaigns, think tanks, and non-profit organisations in Europe whose work relates to democracy, electoral integrity, and public policy and that are often in contact with government officials and affected 104 accounts belonging to the staff in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Serbia. While Microsoft is still investigating the sources of the attacks, the company is confident that they originated from a group called Strontium also known as Fancy Bear and APT28, which is often associated with the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU) by the research community.


 

Access

 

93% of Kosovo* households had Internet access in 2018 according to a survey

Around 93.2% of households in Kosovo* had Internet access in 2018, from any device, according to a survey by the Kosovo* Agency of Statistics. According to the survey, the most popular means of accessing the Internet are mobile phones, followed by laptops, desktop computers, and tablets. Researchers also found that the Internet use for accessing public services increased by 4.4% compared to the previous year and that, of the 93.2% of households that had access to the Internet via landline and mobile, 90.2% were served with a fixed line and 24.6% with a mobile line.


Connecting Europe Broadband Fund: 135 000 communities in Croatia will get high speed broadband

The Connecting Europe Broadband Fund (CEBF) has partnered with telecommunication companies to connect 135 000 communities in North-Western Croatia with high-speed broadband, the European Commission announced in a press statement. The group will deploy an open-access network for residential, business and public administration in the rural areas of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar and Istria regions. The expected amount of the investment of this first project is € 30 million and marks the inaugural project of the CEBF, launched in June last year with €420 million and an ambitious agenda to connect underserved areas in Europe to high-speed broadband infrastructure.


Greece’s Open Internet regulation comes into force

Greece’s Open Internet Regulation came into force after it was published in the Government Gazette (242/Β/5-2-2019). The Regulation establishes measures for the Greek market for Internet access services, covering issues such as the implementation of traffic management practices, the provision of specialised services (such as Internet TV), the provision of differentiated billing services (such as zero-rating), and the obligation to inform subscribers about the quality of the provided services. Providers are required to offer compensation in case of performance deviations from the reported minimum speed for fixed and mobile network subscribers. In addition, they have to give the choice to fixed network subscribers to select a package with a lower rated download speed and/or data shipment closest to the realistic speed (if there is such a package) without having to pay a fee for early termination of a fixed-term contract.


Greek and North Macedonian governments agree on removing roaming fees

Greece and North Macedonia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to gradually reduce roaming fees for electronic communications services (for both voice and traffic data between the two countries). According to the MoU, the maximum prices for roaming services will be ‘reduced to the level of those prices applicable in the EU’, and the reduction will happen gradually. According to Mr Damjan Mančevski, Minister of Information Society and Administration of North Macedonia, efforts will be made to completely eliminate roaming charges by 2021. The electronic communications regulatory authorities in the two countries are expected to elaborate implementation plans over the next three months.


Western Balkans countries discuss digital policies

During a ministerial lunch held in Skopje, the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel and ministers responsible for digital policies in Western Balkans countries discussed,inter alia, the idea of opening a regional cybersecurity training centre in Skopje, and the abolishment of the roaming fees in the Western Balkans as of 30 June 2021. A transition period will start on 1 July  2019 when the roaming fees for calls between Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia will be lowered by 25%, with even bigger reduction foreseen for Albania. The agreement for lowering the roaming fees is expected to be signed during the Western Balkans Digital Summit 2019 on April 4-5 in Belgrade. There is also a possibility of signing an agreement on mutual recognition of qualified trust services between Serbia and North Macedonia at the upcoming Digital Summit, which would enable more secure electronic exchanges between businesses in the two countries.


 

Development – other

 

Science and Technology Park launched in North Macedonia

North Macedonia launched a Science and Technology Park aimed to foster technological innovation in the country. The park will shape its activities around three main areas: the digitalisation of the economy, society and public institutions, technology transfers, and the acceleration of start-ups. The overall investment will amount to around EUR 80 million. According to the Minister of Information Society and Administration, Mr Damjan Mančevski, the park is expected to evolve into a ‘free zone that brings together students, professors and businesses to share ideas, experience and know-how’.


North Macedonia and Kosovo* discuss digital cooperation

North Macedonia and Kosovo* are planning joint activities in the areas of digital development and information society, innovation and entrepreneurship, as outlined at a meeting held in Skopje on 14 February between Macedonian Minister of Information Society and Administration, Mr Damjan Mančevski, and Kosovan* Minister of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Mr Besim Beqaj. The two parties also outlined plans for possible cooperation in the development of smart cities as well as in the promotion of digital skills. Another point discussed was the development of a regional cloud computing infrastructure to serve the research and development communities in Albania, Kosovo* and North Macedonia. The two ministers reiterated their support for broader initiatives meant to foster digitalisation across the Western Balkans region, including the plans to create a regional training centre for cybersecurity for public entities in the region.


 

E-money and virtual currencies

 

Croatian team launches first blockchain podcast in the Balkans

Balkan blockchain scene now has its dedicated podcast, called ‘Blockchain from the Block’. The podcast was launched in a co-operation between tech website Netokracija and investment fund æternity Ventures. The podcast will be published in 20 episodes from February until July 2019, and will feature some of the blockchain experts and startups from the region, as well as news and potential developments and attempts to ‘demystify blockchain’. The podcast is published in the English language on the Transistor.fm platform.


 

Economic – other issues

 

Digitalising the agricultural sector in Greece

The government of Greece launched a call for proposals for the implementation of the programme ‘Digital transformation of the agricultural sector’, with a total budget of EUR 33.5 million. Among other aspects, the initiative envisions the deployment of a national data infrastructure, to allow the collection of agricultural data on soil, water, plant health, and atmospheric conditions. The data would be collected via a network of smart technologies encompassing the Internet of things, big data and satellite systems. Authorities expect that the creation of an intelligent agriculture infrastructure will lead to the reduction of production costs, improved quality of agricultural products, and the creation of new jobs. Moreover, the programme will also include activities focused on developing the capacities of farmers and agronomists to make use of digital technologies.


 

Content policy

 

Facebook to open content review centre in Bulgaria

Social network Facebook has announced plans to open a content review centre in Sofia, Bulgaria.The announcement was made by Telus International, one of the largest outsourcing companies in Bulgaria. ‘Next year, around 150 employees will work in this centre to review content and support the many different Facebook communities,’ said Telus in an official statement. Facebook recently opened similar centres in Spain and Latvia, whose role includes the manual review of posts reported for various violations of Facebook standards. The team in Sofia will review reported posts in Turkish, Russian and Kazakh.


Facebook removes ‘coordinated’ fake accounts in Moldova ahead of elections

Social network Facebook has removed 168 accounts, 28 pages, and 8 Instagram accounts from its platforms after they were discovered to be ‘engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour targeting people in Moldova’ ahead of the country’s 24 February parliamentary elections. The activity originated in Moldova and ‘used a combination of fake accounts and some authentic accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing’, Facebook’s cybersecurity policy chief Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement. According to Gleicher, the page administrators and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues, including mandatory Russian or English-language education, the debate over reunification with Romania, as well as shared manipulated photos, divisive narratives, and satire.


 

Opportunities

Fellowships, scholarships, events and other engagement opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders

 

Upcoming

 

Unlock 2019 | 30-31 May 2019

Unlock is the Prague Civil Society Centre’s annual civic innovation platform that explores how technology and innovation are empowering civil society and independent media in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Applications for the event in Prague are open until 3 March 2019.


CEE Startup Challenge | 10 March

The third edition of CEE Startup Challenge, a large regional online competition for startups and scaleups where one can win up to one million euro investment from Next Road Ventures, is looking for applications from regional companies that fit in the categories of ICT, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, fintech, insurtech, blockchain, e-commerce and marketplace, adtech and martech, edtech, media and entertainment. Deadline for applications is 10 March 2019.


EuroDIG travel support | 19–20 June 2019 | The Hague, Netherlands

Individuals interested in attending the 12th EuroDIG meeting can apply for financial support. Candidates must demonstrate a strong interest in Internet governance issues and submit an expression of interest. Preference will be given to coordinators of national and regional IGFs, candidates from lower-income economies in Europe, among others. The deadline for applications is 15 March 2019.


The International Governance Olympiad | 17 May 2019

The International Governance Olympiad is proposing to stimulate and harness the imagination and creativity of the most talented students in the study areas of governance, social sciences, and communication, focusing on social innovation and governance reform, and thus creating the premises for sustainable development of the society. Applications are open until 31 March 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 to the global fellowship programme. These fellowships are limited and do not all include travel costs. The application deadline is 31 March 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.


Call for papers: SCRD Journal, Special edition for SEEDIG 5

SEEDIG and the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest invite students, researchers and academics in SEE+ to contribute to a special edition of the Smart Cities and Regional Development Journal, prepared for SEEDIG 5. Papers could cover a broad range of Internet governance and policy issues, in particular those included in the programme for SEEDIG 5. The deadline for submissions is 10 April 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.


 

Upcoming events

 

March 2019

 

7th Security Project 2019 | 1–2 March 2019 | Athens, Greece

IDC IT Security Roadshow | 5 March 2019 | Ankara, Turkey

DIDS2019Serbian Internet Domains Day | 5 March 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia

Seavus Code Talks | 6 March 2019 | Skopje, North Macedonia

Women in Data Science 2019 | 8 March 2019 | Osijek, Croatia

9th International Conference on Information Society and Technology | 10–13 March 2019 | Kopaonik, Serbia

Digital Takeover | 12 March 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia

Peering Days 2019 | 12–13 March 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia

IDC Security Roadshow 2019 | 14 March 2019 | Moscow, Russia

The Data Conference | 14 March 2019 | Nea Erythraia, Greece

European Robotics Forum | 20–22 March 2019 | Bucharest, Romania

Voxxed Days Bucharest | 20–22 March 2019 | Bucharest, Romania

Blockchain DAY 2019 | 21 March 2019 | Laško, Slovenia

Startup Europe Summit | 21–22 March 2019 | Cluj-Napoca, Romania

M3Conference | 22 –24 March 2019 | Skopje, North Macedonia

DroneDays 2019 | 26–27 March 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia

5th International Conference Internet of Things | 27 March 2019 | Moscow, Russia

LEAP Summit | 27–30 March 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia

IDC Day: Security & Cloud Roadshow | 28 March 2019 | Yerevan, Armenia

E-commerce Day 2019 | 29 March 2019 | Minsk, Belarus

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Editorial note

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.

While we do our best to double-check the information we cover, and we always provide links to the sources, we acknowledge the fact that errors might appear in our summaries. Please rest assured that such errors are never made on purpose. And we always stand ready to correct them.

For any corrections or contributions to our summaries, please contact SEESummary coordinator Sorina Teleanu, at editors@seedig.net.