Developments in March 2019
Issue no. 26 of the SEEsummary, published on 1 April 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 March 2019. Also included: a list of upcoming events (April 2019) and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders. Contributors to this issue: Maja Ćalović, Desara Dushi, Andrijana Gavrilović, Luminița Iordache, Arvin Kamberi, Olga Kyryliuk, Marko Paloski, Efthymia Papadopoulou, Dušan Stojičević, Oliana Sula, Sorina Teleanu.
Developments in March 2019
Telecommunications infrastructure | Convergence | Cybersecurity | Child safety online | Access | Development – other | E-money and virtual currencies | Economic – other issues | Content policy
New Internet transit channel to connect Asia and Europe
Armenian telecommunications company Ucom signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranian Telecommunication Company and the Qatar-based Gulf Bridge International to create an Internet transit channel that will connect Gulf and Asian states with Europe. The network will run through Armenia and is intended to serve as an alternative to the current maritime route. Armenian and Iranian representatives have also agreed to start cooperation in information security, as well as to promote exports of information technology products and launch joint initiatives to support the development of the digital economy.
Bosnia and Herzegovina makes steps towards 4G
The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted a decision that will allow the deployment of 4G mobile networks in the country. Proposed by the Communications Regulatory Authority, the Decision on licenses to use the radio frequency spectrum to provide service through mobile access systems empowers the authority to issue licenses to electronic communications operators for the introduction of 4G networks. The 4G rollout is expected to begin in April 2019, with a plan to have full 4G coverage within five years and 60% of the inhabited territory covered in a year. The value of the 4G licenses is estimated at 17.5 million BAM (around 8 million EUR), and the government plans to use this money to support developments in the areas of communications and transport over the next five years.
Croatian regulator and industry outline 5G plans
The Government of Croatia has approved the annual action plan of the Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries (HAKOM), which sets out the priority areas for the country’s regulator in 2019. According to the plan, one of HAKOM’s priorities will be to provide the preconditions for the implementation of 5G networks. To this aim, it will develop the necessary strategic documents and enable the testing of 5G equipment, while also considering options for assigning relevant portions of the radio frequency spectrum, in case there is interest from providers of electronic communications services. Meanwhile, Hrvatski Telekom announced it is implementing several pilot projects to test the deployment of 5G technology in main Croatian cities. A first such test has already been conducted in the city or Samobor, and others are envisioned in Osijek and the island of Krk.
Preliminary approval granted for the Telekom Albania sale
Albania’s Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) has granted preliminary approval for the sale of 99.757% interest in Telekom Albania, held by Greece’s OTE group, to Bulgarian company Albania Telecom Invest. The agreement is awaiting approval by the Albanian Competition Authority. The price of the deal is estimated at 50 million EUR. The transaction is expected to be closed within the first half of 2019.
AI community starts operating in Serbia
In Serbia, the Novi Sad School of Business has opened a Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics with the aim of educating students and researchers about modern technologies and research in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D printing, and the Internet. In addition to Novi Sad, the local AI community is starting to operate in Belgrade as well. The community aims to promote knowledge and share innovative practices in the field of AI, as well as provide a platform for innovators looking to present their AI products globally. The community plans to open new branches in other cities in the region in 2019, where AI-related questions such as ethics and data policy will be discussed at least once every three months.
Information security concept adopted in Belarus
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has approved the Concept of information security of Belarus. The Concept provides for a comprehensive approach to information security and creates a methodological basis for its strengthening. It also serves as a foundation for developing the country’s national policy in this field, improving the national information security system, and ensuring higher efficiency when it comes to protecting national interests in the information sphere. Additionally, the Concept envisages participation of all relevant stakeholders in the maintenance of information security at the national level..
Guide on child online safety launched in Serbia
The first digital guide on child online safety – Children and Internet – Smart from the Start – has been published in Serbia, based on a research conducted within the framework of the Family Safety Net project launched by UNICEF and Telenor company, and implemented by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the Uzice Child Rights Centre non-governmental organisation. This guide is addressed both to children who are active users of online tools, but also to digital migrants such as parents, guardians, and teachers who may be lacking adequate knowledge in using digital technologies. The digital guide is available online and school and preschool institutions are encouraged to use it as a tool to develop digital literacy and digital competencies among children.
Around 700 schools in remote Azerbaijani villages will be connected to the Internet
The Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan, electronic communications company Bakcell, and the Azerbaijan Education Network (AzEduNet, the Internet and IT Services Provider for the national academic sector), signed a cooperation agreement on a joint project that will provide access to Internet and network services to up to 700 schools located in remote villages. As part of the agreement, Bakcell will provide schools with Internet access free of charge for a period of three years, while AzEduNet will ensure unlimited access to network resources and technical support services. The Deputy Minister of Education, Mr Idris Isayev, indicated that efforts have been put in recent years in the digitalisation of the educational sector, from providing Internet and intranet services, to ensuring access to electronic educational resources, and bringing digital technologies into the teaching and decision making processes.
Romania launches initiative to support public-private cooperation on digitalisation
The Ministry of Communications and Information Society of Romania has launched the Romania Communicates initiative, designed to provide a framework for discussions and strategic planning regarding the digitalisation of the country’s economy and society. In the framework of this initiative, events will be held and action plans will be launched with the overall goal of enhancing communication and collaboration between public institutions and the private sector on issues related to digitalisation and digital transformation. Speaking at the launch event, Minister Alexandru Petrescu underlined the need to ‘strengthen the consultations and exchanges of experience, […] and to bring pragmatism and vision to the vision of promoting public policies in the area of digitalisation, as only through full convergence with the industry can governmental actions bring tangible benefits to both citizens and companies’.
Digital transformation study launched in Greece
The Greek Association of Information Technology and Communications (SEPE) and Deloitte have launched a strategic study containing guidelines aimed to assist the Greek information and communications technology sector to respond to the global challenges associated with the digital transformation of the economy. The study is intended to help improve the competitiveness of the ICT sector, so it could have a greater contribution to the national economy.
Public consultation on crypto assets in Serbia
The Serbian Securities Commission, in cooperation with the Office of the Prime Minister, has launched a public consultation regarding the issuing, trading and additional regulation of cryptocurrencies and digital tokens in Serbia. The Consultation Paper specifies that crypto assets include cryptocurrencies and digital tokens. The paper outlines three types of tokens that might be issued in Initial Coin Offering (ICO) proceedings, or be otherwise recognised as digital assets: asset tokens, utility tokens and cryptocurrencies. The paper is open for comments to all interested parties until 15 May 2019.
Telekom Srbija licensed to issue electronic money
The National Bank of Serbia has issued a licence allowing the state-owned telecom operator Telekom Srbija to issue electronic money. Previously, the Serbian company iPay See d.o.o. was the only institution in the country allowed to issue e-money. At the moment, there are around a dozen companies that hold licences to process transactions with electronic money in Serbia.
Romania: between regulating and outlawing ride-hailing services
The Romanian Senate (one of the two chambers in the country’s parliament) has approved a draft law aimed to create a regulatory framework for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt (former Taxify). According to the draft law, drivers providing such services would be required to have a professional license issued by the Romanian Road Authority (now a requirement for taxi drivers), and to equip their cars with cash registers allowing them to issue receipts for passengers. Provisions that would be applicable to the online platforms facilitating ride-hailing services include keeping track of all driving licenses of their drivers, publishing the applicable tariffs and the license plates of the cars, monitoring all rides, and allowing clients to communicate with the drivers and receive information about the driver’s location and the estimated arrival time. The draft law, which is yet to be approved in the Chamber of Deputies, comes in the context of complaints from taxi drivers regarding an ‘unfair competition’ from ride-hailing services. At the same time, the Ministry of Development launched a public consultation procedure on a draft government ordinance according to which all drivers who transport passengers without authorisation would be fined with 200–300 EUR per ride. Uber Romania stated that the company is taking part in the debates being held in the Parliament on the draft law. Also, Uber and Bolt issued a joint statement asking the government to postpone the adoption of the draft ordinance until a proper regulatory framework is in place.
Bosnian companies sign IT manifesto
More than 50 Bosnian information technology (IT) companies, under the head organisation BIT Alliance, signed a manifesto outlining a strategic approach for the development of the IT sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The document identifies key challenges in the field and offers recommendations aiming to make the IT industry one of the key drivers of the country’s economic development. The IT sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina generates around 500 million BAM (around 250 million EUR) a year and will soon need around 6000 new specialised workers, says the manifesto.
Facebook removes fake accounts in Romania, Russia, North Macedonia and Kosovo*
Facebook announced that it suspended 31 Romanian-based pages, groups and accounts used for coordinated actions targeted at influencing users’ opinions for political purposes. According to the online social platform, the suspended accounts were used in a coordinated inauthentic behaviour by a network which operated in Romania and used a combination of fake accounts for misleading users. The company has also removed 1907 pages, groups and accounts for engaging mostly in spam linked to Russia, as well as 212 accounts which were engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour that originated in North Macedonia and Kosovo*.
New sanctions list in Ukraine provides for blocking of online resources
The President of Ukraine has approved a new order of the National Security and Defence Council containing, inter alia, a list of sanctioned online resources. The list contains sanctions against several Russian Internet companies: online retailer Ozon.ru, online library Litres, and online book store Labirint.ru. Search engine Yandex is on the list for another three years, as well as its website about cinematography KinoPoisk, and entertainment online resource Afisha.ru. Sanctions are also extended to IT companies such as Data Internet, I ITX, INST.NET, and Reksoft.
Disrespect towards authorities and fake news online legally banned in Russia
The Russian Code of Administrative Offences has been recently amended to legally ban disrespect towards authorities and dissemination of fake news on the Internet. The administrative responsibility for minor hooliganism has been extended to dissemination of information that constitutes in itself a blatant disrespect towards the society, state, official state symbols, the Constitution, or state authorities through the Internet. The amendments provide for one-year statute of limitations to bring a person to responsibility for dissemination of fake news, and have no retroactive application. Fines of up to 1.5 million rubles, or about 23 000 USD, can be imposed for spreading unreliable socially significant information (fake news). A media watchdog is granted the power to demand a media outlet to delete the information. Websites that fail to comply would be blocked. For disrespect towards authorities a person might be fined or even jailed for 15 days in case of repeated offence.
Fellowships, scholarships, events and other engagement opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders
POINT 8.0 | 16–19 May 2019
POINT Conference (Political Accountability and New Technologies) is a regional conference for civil society organisations from six countries of South Eastern Europe, which are intensively engaged in using new technologies in their work, but it also involves the participation of organisations, individuals, groups, and institutions from all around the world. The conference will be held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 16–19 May 2019. A call for speakers and a call for travel and accommodation fellowships are open until 1 April 2019.
Open Source Conference Albania – Call for proposals | 18–19 May 2019
OSCAL (Open Source Conference Albania), an annual conference in Albania organised to promote software freedom, open source software, free culture, and open knowledge, has opened its call for proposals, open to everyone who wants to join the conference and share their thoughts and experience, or host a talk or workshop. The conference will take place on 18–19 May 2019 in Tirana.
Call for ideas: Indicators to assess risks to Media Pluralism in the Digital Age #MPM2020
The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMFP) launched a call for papers or blog posts on indicators to assess risks to media pluralism in the digital age. The call is part of a CMFP initiative to develop a comprehensive study on the conditions and standards against which to assess risks to information pluralism online. The authors of the best papers will have an opportunity to attend a workshop on media pluralism in the digital age, in June 2019, in Florence. The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2019.
3rd eSecurity conference | 3–5 April 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia
IT Summit 2019 | 3–5 April 2019 | Yerevan, Armenia
SiNOG 5.1 | 4 April 2019 | Ljubljana, Slovenia
Western Balkans Digital Summit | 4–5 April 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia
Ethical Hacking Conference – HEK.SI | 4–5 April 2019 | Ljubljana, Slovenia
10th Russian Internet Governance Forum (RIGF) | 8 April 2019 | Moscow, Russia
Adriatic Security Summit 2019 | 8–9 April 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia
Smart Cities 2019 | 9 April 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia
IT law conference | 12 April 2019 | Kyiv, Ukraine
South East European / RIPE NCC Regional Meeting (SEE 8) | 16–17 April 2019 | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
ITU Workshop on Intelligent Transport Systems | 16-17 April 2019 | Baku, Azerbaijan
23rd Russian Internet Forum | 17–19 April 2019 | Moscow, Russia
Workshop for Europe and CIS Regions “Using ICTs to Save Lives” | 24–26 April 2019 | Odessa, Ukraine
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