Issue no. 28 of the SEEsummary, published on 31 May 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 May 2019. Also included: a list of upcoming events (June 2019) and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders. Contributors to this issue: Maja Ćalović, Andrijana Gavrilović, Olga Kyryliuk, Efthymia Papadopoulou, Dušan Stojičević, Oliana Sula, Sorina Teleanu. Design by Charalampos Kyritsis.
Vodafone activates first 5G radio stations in Romania
Vodafone Romania, one of the largest players on the local mobile electronic communications market, announced the activation of the first 5G radio stations in Romania, in the framework of its Supernet 5G mobile network. Once dedicated mobile devices will be available on the market, Vodafone customers will be able to enjoy the high speed and other benefits of the 5G technology. Supernet 5G is now active in Bucharest, but the company plans to expand it to other large Romanian cities by the end of 2019.
Ukraine is discussing prospects of launching 5G in 2020
On 17 May 2019, the President of Ukraine signed a decree requiring the government to develop an action plan for the implementation of 5G mobile systems in the country in 2020. Oleksandr Zhyvotovsky, Head of the National Commission for the State Regulation of Communications and Informatization stated that the Commission is already analysing the frequency bands that can be used for 5G (most likely 700 MHz and 3 400 MHz). According to him, the key issue now is to reach agreements with broadcasters and the military on the conditions for the transition from the 700-800 MHz frequency band to lower bands. Industry representatives are, however, less optimistic, pointing out that 3G and 4G are not yet fully implemented in Ukraine, and the mobile operators have not yet recovered their investments. Before shifting to 5G, Ukrainian authorities have to draft respective national strategy, allocate frequencies, ensure the country’s territory is covered with 4G, and make sure there is private sector demand for 5G services and solutions.
Government AI Readiness Index covering SEE+ countries
Countries in South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area (SEE+) are not very well prepared to take advantage of the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), according to the 2019 edition of the Government AI Index, published by Oxford Insights and the International Development Research Centre. The index covers 194 countries and territories and ranks them according to their preparedness to use AI in the delivery of public services. Each country is allocated a score comprised of 11 input metrics under 4 clusters: governance, infrastructure and data, skills and education, and government and public services. Singapore ranks first in this index, with a score of 9.186. The scores allocated for SEE+ are as follows: Russian Federation – 6.748, Slovenia – 6.232, Turkey – 5.879, Bulgaria – 5.806, Greece – 5.76, Cyprus – 5.668, Romania – 5.54, Serbia – 5.364, North Macedonia – 5.284, Croatia – 5.273, Montenegro – 5.195, Ukraine – 5.266, Azerbaijan – 5.244, Georgia – 4.863, Armenia – 4.716, Albania – 4.614, Moldova – 4.534, Bosnia and Herzegovina – 4.183. According to the report accompanying the index, the lower ranking of countries in the region is mainly due to ‘the lack of an adequate innovation ecosystem to nurture AI skills and advanced technologies’, as well as ‘stagnant economic growth and brain drain’.
Greece, Romania and Slovenia endorse OECD Principles on AI
Greece, Romania and Slovenia are among the countries which endorsed a recent Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence (AI), adopted on 22 May 2019 by the Council of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The recommendation outlines a set of principles to be followed by AI actors to ensure a ‘responsible stewardship of trustworthy AI’. AI actors are called on to work towards AI that promotes inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being, and to implement mechanisms and standards that support the design of AI systems in line with the rule of law, human rights, democratic values, and diversity. They should ensure transparency regarding AI systems, so people can understand the outcomes of AI-based decision and be able to challenge them, if needed. AI systems should also be robust, secure, and safe throughout the entire life cycle, and those developing, deploying or operating AI systems should be accountable for their proper functioning. Governments are invited to invest in AI research and development, foster the development of a digital ecosystem for trustworthy AI, and shape an enabling policy environment for AI. They should also build human capacities in the field of AI and prepare for the labour market transition.
IoT lab created in Azerbaijan
On 1 May 2019, Azerbaijan marked the launch of the country’s first Internet of Things (IoT) laboratory, established on the basis of a memorandum of cooperation between the Information and Communication Technologies Applying and Training Centre of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technology and Microsoft Azerbaijan. The lab aims to support startups and young entrepreneurs and assist them in the implementation of IoT projects. Facilities will be put in place for Innovators to be able to develop IoT solutions and prototypes. It is expected that the lab will be expanded in the future to cover other areas of innovative activities.
Romanian authorities launch unique phone number for reporting cybersecurity incidents
In Romania, the Ministry of Communications and Information Society and the National Computer Security Incident Response Team (CERT-RO) have launched a unique phone number – 1911, where Internet users and public and private entities can report cybersecurity incidents. The call centre, managed by CERT-RO, offers callers primary assistance on how to remedy the issue reported. On 8 May 2019, five days after the launch of the service, the Romanian authorities announced that 100 relevant calls were registered, which accounted for 87 unique cybersecurity incidents reported, 30% of them being of a fraudulent nature (i.e. phishing or similar acts). The statistics also showed that there is now an average of 17 cybersecurity incidents reported a day, significantly higher to the average of 3 incidents reported in 2018. The information collected via the unique number will also be used to diagnose the types of cybersecurity incidents that Romanian users deal with.
Serbian regulator publishes a list of data centres, contributions still welcomed
The Serbian Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (RATEL) has published on its official website a consolidated list of data centres operating in Serbia. Currently, the list includes information on 9 data centres run by 7 telecom operators. RATEL is inviting all telecom operators and other legal entities operating a data centre to submit relevant information to the Agency. The initiative was launched with the aim to make information on data centres available in one single place, which is important in view of trends in the development of electronic communications networks and services.
New system launched in Ukraine to improve e-government services
Ukraine launched a new system for electronic interaction between the e-services of state authorities. Described as the foundation of e-government in Ukraine, the Trembita system aims to ensure the optimisation of public administration and increase its transparency. The data exchange is carried out by the system without human participation, thus accelerating the provision of services and reduces the possibility of mechanical errors and corruption risks. On 22 May, the first automatic data exchange through Trembita was implemented between the National Health Service of Ukraine and the State Service on Medicines and Drugs Control. This is expected to facilitate the efficient implementation of the state programme ‘Affordable medicines’, which provides for the full or partial reimbursement of the medicines’ cost for patients with cardiovascular diseases, bronchial asthma, and type II diabetes. E-interaction between the state services will enable over one million data inspections per month, and will make it possible to verify the legality reimbursements received by pharmacies from the state budget for drugs dispensed to citizens within the programme. The project is a result of joint efforts by the State Agency for e-Governance of Ukraine, the USAID/UK aid project Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS), and the East Europe Foundation.
Romania takes one step forward towards regulating ride-hailing services
Romanian authorities have taken new steps towards the regulation of ride-hailing services, following controversies over the status of these services. The Ministry of Transport has published a draft government ordinance on alternative transport activities, under public consultation until 3 June. According to the draft, the operators of digital ride-hailing platforms would have to be authorised by the Ministry of Communications and Information Society and pay an annual tax of 50.000 LEI (around 10.000 EUR). All drivers providing ride-hailing services through an authorised platform would also need to hold an authorisation for the provision of such services, issued by the Romanian Road Authority. Moreover, all cars involved in the provisions of ride-hailing services would have to be authorised by the Romanian Road Authority, and all incomes resulting from the provision of these services would be subject to taxes, according to existing Romanian legislation. The draft ordinance is said to have been agreed with representatives of ride-hailing services, who welcomed the initiative as a step forward towards ensuring a level playing field between taxi companies and alternative transport providers. It is worthwhile mentioning that a draft law aimed to regulate ride-hailing services was approved by the Senate in March and is currently under debate in the lower house of the Romanian Parliament.
Gaming and blockchain dominate startup ecosystem in Serbia
While still in its early stages of development, the Serbian startup ecosystem is growing, with around 400 software startup companies active in the country, according to the global report Startup Genome, which, for the first time, includes Serbia. The ecosystem is dominated by gaming and blockchain startups, and the report positions Serbia among the top five countries in the world by the number of blockchain developers. Startups in Serbia can access affordable, high-quality engineering talent, which, according to the report, also ranks among the top five in the world. Both the private and the public sector are focusing on further acceleration, including early-stage funding, and the government has invested around 79 million USD in the technical infrastructure intended to support this ecosystem.
EU4Digital programme kicked off in Ukraine
The European Union (EU) regional programme ‘EU4Digital: supporting digital economy and society in the Eastern Partnership’ will be implemented in Ukraine with the aim to extend the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market to Ukraine and other countries of the Eastern Partnership. The overall budget of the programme is 11 million EUR, to be spent by December 2021. The programme supports governments, regulatory bodies and agencies active in the development of the digital sector, as well as economic actors and stakeholders in the development and implementation of programmes focused on innovation, training and development of skills. The programme is expected to lead to the creation of a common roaming space among Eastern Partnership countries by 2020, facilitate the development of digital skills, foster an enabling framework for innovation and start-ups, support cross-border e-trade, and improve e-health services.
Greece goes ahead with the WiFi4GR project
The Greek Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media has launched a public consultation on a draft contract to conclude the framework agreement for the WiFi4GR project, an initiative meant to provide public broadband wireless access points. The agreement covers the procurement, installation and operation of wireless Internet access points in 2900 outdoor and indoor public spaces (museums, sidewalks, beaches, squares etc.) across Greece. The hotspots will be assigned by municipalities and a central management system will be in charge of monitoring and control. The project is estimated at 14.7 million EUR.
Romanian NRA proposes measures to ensure better access of persons with disabilities to electronic communications services
The National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) of Romania has launched a public consultation on a draft decision proposing measures to ensure better access of persons with disabilities to electronic communication services, including Internet. The proposed measures are to be implemented by service providers and include, among others, improved Internet traffic packages. Thus, users with hearing and/or speaking disabilities could ask providers to offer a minimum volume of 3GB of data, and an unlimited amount of data for the use of video sign language interpretation services through dedicated applications. The recommended price for the service is 2 EUR/month. For users with visual disabilities, ANCOM proposes that, at users’ request, providers offer a 3GB mobile data volume at a recommended rate of 2 EUR/month.
Turkey fines Facebook and investigates Microsoft for data breaches
The Turkish Personal Data Protection Authority (KVKK) fined Facebook 1.65 million Turkish liras (around 276 000 USD) for a Photo API bug, which allowed third-party applications to access photos of almost seven million Facebook users, including 300 000 users from Turkey, for nearly two weeks in September 2018. According to KVKK, Facebook did not implement technical measures to protect users’ data and failed to notify authorities about the software bug in a timely manner, thus breaching the Turkish Data Protection Act. The fine is composed of two parts: 1.1 million liras for failure to prevent unlawful access to personal data, and 550 000 liras for not complying with the obligation to notify the authority. KVKK is also said to be investigating another incident with Facebook, dated September 2018, when unknown attackers exploited three bugs to steal the personal data of 50 million users. Microsoft was also under KVKK scrutiny, due to an incident in which a compromised account of a company’s support agent allowed hackers to have access to information about some users’ accounts, including email addresses, names of correspondents, and some emails contents.
Civil society group calls on large tech companies to appoint their data protection representatives in Serbia
Serbian-based human rights organisation SHARE Foundation called upon 20 major tech companies providing online services in the country to appoint their representatives in Serbia who would deal with data protection issues. Letters were sent to Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Snap Inc – Snapchat, AliExpress, Viber, Yandex, Booking, Airbnb, Ryanair, Wizzair, eSky, Yahoo, Netflix, Twitch, Kupujem prodajem, Toptal, GoDaddy, Upwork. SHARE Foundation is concerned that these companies do not provide proper guarantees for the protection of Serbian citizens’ data. Starting in August 2019, a new law on personal data protection is to be applied in Serbia. The law is compliant with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and includes an obligation for large companies to appoint representatives in the country. The representatives can be either an individual or a legal entity, and they are expected to cooperate with the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection of the Republic of Serbia.
OSCE Media Freedom Representative publishes legal review of Electronic Media Law in Montenegro
Harlem Desir, Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a legal review of the Montenegrin Electronic Media Law, following a request from the Ministry of Culture in Montenegro. The legal review, carried out by a commissioner expert, included an analysis of current Montenegrin legislation and a comparison with OSCE commitments, the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, and relevant Council of Europe recommendations. According to the analysis, more efforts are needed to ensure the structural and editorial independence of public broadcasters, whose establishment should fall under the responsibility of the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM). The law also needs to include more clear criteria for the licensing of public broadcasters. In addition, it is recommended that the implementation of the law is exclusively monitored by AEM, for a more efficient supervisory process. Finally, any amendments brought to the law should be subject to public consultations and discussed with relevant national and international stakeholders.
Fellowships, scholarships, events and other engagement opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders
Call for travel support to attend the 14th IGF meeting | 25–29 November 2019, Berlin
The Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) launched a call inviting individuals from developing countries to apply for travel support to participate in the 14th IGF annual meeting, taking place on 25–29 November in Berlin, Germany. To qualify for travel support, applicants must also demonstrate an interest in Internet governance activities, as well as a commitment to contributing to the IGF community after the 2019 meeting. Women, persons with disabilities, older persons, youth, and indigenous people will be given preference. The call is open until 30 June 2019.
ENOG16 | 3–4 June 2019 | Tbilisi, Georgia
FinTech 4 Business Forum | 4 June 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia
AI Conference 2019 | 4 June 2019 | Kyiv, Ukraine
Emerge Conference | 4–5 June 2019 | Minsk, Belarus
Internet Dialogue | 5 June 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia
INAT Summit | 5–7 June 2019 | Belgrade, Serbia
NDR Artificial Intelligence Conference | 6 June 2019 | Bucharest, Romania
.NET Summit | 8 June 2019 | Minsk, Belarus
Doku.Tech 2019 | 8–9 June 2019 | Prishtina, Kosovo*
Techsylvania 2019 | 8–11 June 2019 | Cluj Napoca, Romania
IDC Security Forum | 11 June 2019 | Bucharest, Romania
GRNOG | 12 June 2019 | Athens, Greece
Infosek New Technologies | 12–14 June 2019 | Nova Gorica, Slovenia
Bucharest DigIT Expo | 12–15 June 2019 | Bucharest, Romania
Digital Assembly | 13–14 June 2019 | Bucharest, Romania
Brave New World 2019 | 13–15 June 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia
Bled eConference | 16–19 June 2019 | Bled, Slovenia
Digital Influencers in Action Forum | 18 June 2019 | Budva, Montenegro
SpliTech2019 | 18–21 June | Bol and Split, Croatia
Romania Blockchain Summit 2019 | 21–22 June 2019 | Bucharest, Romania
World Conference on Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship | 21–23 June 2019 | Istanbul, Turkey
Bucharest Symposium on Global Cybersecurity Awareness | 26–27 June 2019 | Bucharest, Romania
ITU Regional Workshop for Europe ‘National Cybersecurity Strategies’ | 26–28 June 2019 | Skopje, North Macedonia
Istanbul Bosphorus International Cyberpolitics, Cyberlaw and Cybersecurity Conference | 27–30 June 2019 | Istanbul, Turkey
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.
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