SEEsummary #53

November 2021

Issue no. 53 of the SEEsummary, published on 4 December 2021, by SEEDIG. This issue covers Internet governance and digital policy developments that occurred in South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area (SEE+) in November 2021. Also included: a list of upcoming events in December 2021 and January 2022, updates on national IGFs conducted in November and available development opportunities.

Country contributors to this issue: Katarina Gevorgyan, Aleksandar Ichokjaev, Marko Paloski, Dušan Stojičević. Editors: Meri Baghdasaryan, Grațiela Dumitrescu, Olga Kyryliuk, Neli Odishvili. Coordination and final editing: Olga Kyryliuk. Design: Charalampos Kyritsis.

Telecommunications infrastructure

The Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries (HAKOM) runs a public consultation on the future use and allocation of radio frequency bands for mobile communication networks. The consultation started at the end of October and will last until 6 December 2021. Its main purpose is to conduct market research and collect feedback that will inform the design of the allocation procedure. The allocation itself will begin in early December 2022 and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2023. Public mobile communication network operators of Croatia will get the radio frequencies by 2024. Respectively, any adjustments to the existing networks must be deployed by that time in order to ensure a smooth transition for end-users. Unassigned radio frequency bands might be open for private applicants operating in industry, transport or agriculture.

Romania’s National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) organised an auction process for the short-term licenses for 195 MHz frequencies in the 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3.5GHz bands. The new licenses are designed to expire simultaneously with the existing ones in force for the same frequency bands. The target amount for the auction was set at EUR 72.5 million. However, the two winning companies, including RCS&RDS and Invite Systems, brought only EUR 43.4 million. Reportedly, the other companies did not apply for the bid. Given the circumstances, ANCOM will organise a new auction for the remaining spectrum, which it plans to finalise by the end of 2021.

Within the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFBB) Project framework, the Ministry of Digital Governance of Greece wants to broaden the fibre optics coverage across the country. Currently, the Ministry is preparing a tender worth EUR 868 million to attract contractors to deploy fibre infrastructure all over Greece. The tender is part of the UFBB public-private partnership with an estimated value of EUR 1.2 billion, out of which EUR 400 million come from public sources.

Russian mobile market leader Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) successfully tested Russia’s first 5G Open RAN using domestic software developed by the Skolkovo Institute of Science & Technology (Skoltech). Since December 2019, MTS and Skoltech have cooperated to create domestic 5G hardware and software systems based on Open RAN radio access’s open standardised architecture. The use of these standards will contribute to the localisation of telecom equipment production in Russia and reduce the cost of building new generation communication networks. Moreover, in partnership with Ericsson, MTS opened the first 5G network test zone at the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg, incorporating an indoor network operating with 27 GHz frequencies. This new facility will allow students, researchers and teachers to test technical solutions such as drones, robotics and special applications for industrial production sites, smart homes and smart cities.

Content policy

Russian state communications regulator  Roskomnadzor published a list of 13 foreign tech companies required to open official representations in Russia by January 2022, otherwise facing the risk of fines or outright bans of operations. This move follows the adoption of the law on foreign Internet entities as of July 2021 that envisaged new obligations of tech firms with over 500 000 daily users. Among enlisted companies are Google, Apple, Meta, Twitter, Tiktok, Zoom, Viber, Telegram and others. Additionally, enlisted companies must open a profile on Roskomnadzor’s website and make available a feedback form for interaction with Russian users.

Access & Development

Elon Musk’s space telecom Starlink starts operating in Croatia and will cover the Adriatic coast, including almost all islands, by the end of this year or latest at the beginning of 2022. According to new reports, Croatia will be the first in the region to gain access to Starlink. Next year, the service might become available in the telecom markets of Slovenia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The company proposes Internet via satellite speeds varying between those of 4G and 5G and reaching up to 50-150 Mbps with a latency of 20-40 milliseconds and no gigabyte limit. Allegedly, Starlinlink’s services could be interesting for hotels, factories and other economic entities, as well as local authorities looking for a backup or better Internet connection. The service can already be ordered on the Starlink.com page.

With the new Hipernet service launch, Serbian mobile network operator Telenor enters the fixed broadband Internet and TV content distribution market. New household service covers fibre-optic broadband optical Internet, digital television and fixed telephony and offers access to the strongest possible home Wi-Fi signal in Serbia. The digital television service was launched in test mode. Anyone interested is invited to try it and share feedback that will inform further improvement and customisation of the product.

Capacity development

The Armenian-Russian University signed a memorandum of understanding with the Systems Software Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences to host a Center for Advanced Software Technologies. The centre will conduct research in several areas, including software analysis, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, cloud technologies and robotics. Educational activities will be offered to the Bachelor, Master and PhD programs’ students at the University’s Mathematics and Informatics Department.

Information society & Digital economy

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a report on connectivity in education covering nine SEE+ countries, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. The report calls to look at connectivity in education holistically as information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be drivers of digital skills development, innovative governance in the education system, as well as smart and flexible education delivery both at school and at home. In addition, the report highlights how ICT helped children in these nine countries transition to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ukrainian government adopted a new Strategy for Digital Development, Digital Transformation and Digitalisation of the Public Financial Management System. The strategy includes an action plan for its implementation until 2025. The Ministry of Finance noted that the strategy would create new opportunities for the digital transformation of the public finance management system, automation in the business domain, as well as in the field of state internal control, and monitoring and assessment of fiscal risks.

The North Macedonian national e-gaming team became one of the three champions at the International Esports Federation World Cup, getting the title “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) winner”. Initially, the team lost to Romania in the semi-finals but had the opportunity of a rematch by playing Ukraine in the repechage. It is North Macedonia’s second victory in recent months against Romania after beating their opponents in the European Nations Cup held earlier in September.

In Serbia, the Department of Commerce, Tourism and Telecommunications, the American Chamber of Commerce and the e-Commerce Association launched a “Click Safe, Buy Proven” campaign to encourage Serbian citizens to use legal e-commerce services safely. Serbian customers often lack knowledge of safe online shopping, including checking whether online marchant is operating legally, making sure that the online platform is safe for shopping, or protecting consumer rights. The campaign’s purpose is to enhance public awareness regarding secure online trade and inform society about the advantages of legal e-commerce, such as consumer rights, protection of citizens from fraud, and positive impact on the state budget.

NATIONAL AND YOUTH IGFs

Upcoming opportunities

The first national Greek Internet Governance Forum (IGF Greece) took place on 13-14 November 2021 at the Department of Informatics and Telecommunications (NKUA) and online via live streaming. The agenda was constructed around such topics as Internet polyphony, accessibility, Artificial Intelligence, Internet and environmental sustainability, etc. Additionally to panel discussions, participants could attend seven thematic workshops, including on ethical hacking, the future of Internet governance, and fake news. The IGF Greece 2021 was organised by the Institute for the Internet and the Just Society under the auspices of the Ministry of Digital Government, the Municipality of Athens, and the United Nations. Among its supporters are EURid, ICANN, RIPE NCC, Internet Society Foundation and others.

On 30 November and 1 December 2021, Georgia hosted the 7th national Internet Governance Forum – GeoIGF 2021. This year, the event was conducted in a hybrid format. The Forum united Georgian and international experts from governmental, non-governmental, private and international organisations. During GeoIGF 2021, participants had an opportunity to attend ten panel discussions covering the following topics: 5G readiness and role of new technologies in country development; personal data protection; digital literacy; misinformation; online content; national cybersecurity strategy and related implementation challenges; Artificial Intelligence; etc. The forum was co-organised and supported by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, the Communications Commission, Internet Society Georgia (ISOC Georgia), and the Council of Europe in coordination with the Telecom Operators Association (TOA). GeoIGF 2021 was marked by signing a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee of the Parliament of Georgia aimed at the facilitation of cooperation between the Forum and the Parliament.

Upcoming deadlines

European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) invites submissions for issues for the 2022 EuroDIG meeting. The proposals may concern such categories as human rights, access and literacy, media and content, security and crime, development of the Internet governance ecosystem, etc. The interested parties may submit up to three proposals via this online form by 31 December 2021.

RightsCon, one of the leading global events on human rights in the digital age, announced its call for proposals for the 11th annual meeting that will take place online on 6-10 June 2022. The program categories include such topics as Artificial Intelligence; business, labor and trade; civil society resistance and resilience; data protection and user control; content governance, etc. The proposals can be submitted through the event webpage by 13 January 2022.

The Internet Society invites nominations for a seat on the Public Interest Registry (PIR) Board of Directors. PIR is the non-profit operator of the .ORG, .NGO and .ONG domains. Candidates are expected to have a prior board or senior executive experience, show appreciation for PIR’s Mission and the potential impact of its decisions, have skills in reading and understanding a balance sheet, and be fluent in English. Gender balance, geographic, cultural, and other forms of diversity will be considered during the selection process. In 2022, there are three positions opening on the PIR Board. The appointed directors will serve three-year terms, beginning mid-year in 2022. More information about the position, the qualifications, and a link to the nomination form can be found here. The deadline for nominations is 12:00 UTC on 1 February 2022.

Upcoming events

16th UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF 2021) | 6-10 December 2021 | Katowice, Poland

Python Day – 2021 | 6-10 December 2021 | Online

DevTernity Conference | 10-11 December 2021 | Online

Artificial Intelligence BattleGround Belgrade | 10-11 December 2021 | Belgrade, Serbia

FONIS Hackathon for High School Students 4.0 | 11-12 December 2021 | Belgrade, Serbia

Game Development Day | 15 December 2021 | Online

#PrivacyCamp22 | 25 January  2022 | Online

The European 5G Conference | 25-26 January 2021 | Brussels, Belgium & Online

Editorial note

The SEEsummary is produced on a best effort basis, by our team of volunteer editors and contributors. 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.