SEEsummary #32 | October 2019

Issue no. 32 of the SEEsummary, published on 1 November 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 October 2019. Also included: an overview of IGF meetings held across the region; a list of upcoming events (November 2019); and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders.

Contributors to this issue: Maja Ćalović, Katarine Gevorgyan, Derya Güçdemir, Aleksandra Ivanković, Ana Jovanović, Stelios Kavvadias, Olga Kyryliuk, Marko Paloski, Liljana Pecova Ilieska, Vasile Popa, Oliana Sula, Veronica Ștefan, Sorina Teleanu. Coordination: Olga Kyryliuk. Web design: Charalampos Kyritsis, Sorina Teleanu

Regional cooperation

The Serbian Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal (RATEL) and the Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of electronic communications and postal services. In line with this agreement, the parties have convened to promote the exchange of information and experience regarding the regulation of electronic communications and postal services. They have also committed to supporting  regulatory policies and actions taken by each authority, as long as they are in line with mutual interests and with the need to protect the public interests and the needs of the people of Serbia and Turkey. The new MoU is an updated version of an initial agreement signed by the two regulatory authorities in 2013.

The Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media of Serbia (REM) have signed a cooperation agreement in the field of electronic communications. Through the agreement, the parties committed to exchange knowledge, experiences and good practices in the regulatory field, as well as to develop and improve policies and strategies related to electronic communications.

Telecommunications infrastructure

Communications ministries of Russia and Belarus have failed to agree on the roaming abolishment roadmap due to different views on wholesale rates for interconnection – an amount paid by one operator to another for every minute of a call that a user spends out of his network. This rate defines a price for incoming calls in international roaming. Currently, the interconnection rate in Belarus amounts to 0,30 USD/minute, while in Russia in varies in-between 0,14-0,19 USD/minute. Abolishing roaming without aligning the rates would result in income loss for each Russian operator, estimated at RUB 1,5-2 billion annually. The parties agreed to decrease the interconnection rate to 0,015 USD/minute, but were not able to decide which calls it should be applied to. Belarusian counterparts insist that the decreased rate should be used only if the incoming call is from a user of any Russian mobile operator, as opposed to fixed phone lines, while Russia advocates for single tariff for all types of calls. Additionally, the parties disagreed on inter-operator roaming tariffs when a user is in roaming but utilises foreign infrastructure for a call. The negotiations have been put on hold for a few weeks

The Moldovan National Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Information Technology (ANRCETI), in cooperation with the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) and with the support of the European Commission, hosted the ninth Meeting of the Spectrum Expert Working Group (SEWG) of the EaPeReg Network (Eastern Partnership Electronic Communications Regulators Network). The event was attended by representatives of the electronic communications regulatory authorities from the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova), experts from EU member states (Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Slovakia, France, Switzerland, Sweden), and specialists of the EU4Digital project. During the meeting, participants discussed outputs of the EU countries’ best practices analysis in terms of freeing 700 MHz and 3400-3800 MHz frequency bands and making them available to the electronic communications market for the development of mobile networks based on 5G. Additionally, participants raised the topics of emission field strength definition, 5G corridors, 5G implementation and auctions, 3.4-3.8GHz issues, 5G license obligations, and cross-border coordination aspects for 5G networks

The telecom company Hrvatski Telekom has been ordered to pay a fine of HRK 28.1 million (almost EUR 3.8 million), being the highest fine ever imposed on a telecom operator in Croatia. The decision was rendered by the High Misdemeanour Court in Zagreb, over the company’s failure to present to the Croatian Network Regulatory Agency (HAKOM) the retail prices at which it sold its services between 2015 and 2016. As the largest telecom company in the country controlling critical infrastructure, Hrvatski Telekom is required by law to submit price lists to HAKOM to prevent it from selling services at a lower cost (dumping) and getting new customers in a non-competitive way. HAKOM initiated an inspection back in 2016, followed by a lawsuit. Hrvatski Telekom considered the fine inappropriate and said it will be looking into further legal steps, although the court decision is final and the fine has to be paid within 30 days.

The Russian government has adopted a regulation authorising the conduction of ‘tests to ensure the stable, safe and holistic functioning of the Internet and public telecommunications network’ in the country. The first tests are expected to be conducted after 1 November 2019, and they will see Russian networks disconnected from the global Internet. The experiments are expected to test the ability of RuNet networks to function autonomously, a scenario envisioned as needed by the Russian government to defend the country in the case of threats to the stability, security, and integrity of the Internet and public communications networks. During the disconnection tests, all Internet traffic will be re-directed through internal routing points and servers managed by national watchdog Roskomnazor. The disconnection will be a temporary one with future tests expected to occur annually, or more frequently if needed, at the federal and regional levels, provided the system works. The exercises are in line with the ‘sovereign Internet law’ adopted in Russia earlier this year.

Artificial intelligence

The Serbian government has created a working group tasked with developing a national strategy for artificial intelligence (AI). The strategy should cover the period 2020–2025 and focus on the development of AI in the country, in areas such as education, research, innovation, economy, and the public administration. The working group has 44 members from public entities (e.g. the office of the prime minister, the ministry of education, the ministry of economy, the ministry in charge of telecommunications etc), private companies (e.g. Microsoft, Google, DeepMind, Nordeus, Vojvodina ICT Cluster etc) and universities.

Cybersecurity

Heads of national security authorities (NSA) from South East Europe (SEENSA) met in Tirana, on 24 October, and agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on cybersecurity matters in the region. They adopted a set of conclusions on the scope of such cooperation, which will include facilitating training programmes in cybersecurity and promoting the sharing of good practices. In line with these conclusions, the year 2020 will feature a focus on enhancing the capacities of NSA in cybersecurity as well as industrial security. The Regional Cooperation Council will support capacity development efforts. The Tirana meeting took place under the Chairmanship of Albania, and the next SEENSA meeting will be hosted by Bulgaria.

The Ministry of Information Society and Administration of North Macedonia has announced the launch of a public consultation on a draft law on network and information security. The draft law transposes the EU Network and Information Security Directive (2016/1148) and it lays down measures aimed at addressing cybersecurity challenges in the country. It covers areas such as capacity building, information exchange and collaboration, and common cybersecurity requirements. For example, the draft law outlines minimum security measures to be implemented by essential services providers (e.g. transport, banking, financial services, public utilities) and digital services providers (e.g. online marketplaces, cloud computing services). Moreover, certain essential service providers (energy, transport, banking, financial market, health, water distribution, and digital infrastructure) would be obliged to establish sectoral computer security incident response teams (CSIRTs), which would have to cooperate with the national CSIRT through a national CSIRTs network. A Digital Agency – to be established as an independent and autonomous entity – is envisioned as the single point of contact for network and information security in North Macedonia. There is also a provision obliging the government to adopt an updated national cybersecurity strategy every two years.

Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have presented a set of Guidelines for a strategic cybersecurity framework, aimed at establishing a framework for a comprehensive and strategic approach in responding to cybersecurity threats. The document outlines goals and activities expected to lead to an increased level of cybersecurity in the country, while also providing a framework for the development of strategic documents focused on addressing cybersecurity-related challenges. The guidelines were developed in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE’s) Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Delegation of the EU and the Office of the EU Special Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Geneva Center for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF).

More than 2000 websites and the national TV station have suffered from a massive cyber attack in Georgia. Among those affected were the websites of the country’s president, law courts, TV channels, news agencies, as well as the websites of governmental agencies, NGOs and private companies. Some resources stopped working, while the majority of hacked websites’ homepages were displaying the image of the former President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the caption ‘I’ll be back’. This incident is seen by the experts as the largest and well coordinated cyber attack in Georgia since 2008. While the disruption has been qualified as significant, it has not touched upon the national critical infrastructure. The origin of the attack is yet to be identified, but the attack proved that the government should pay more attention to secure its networks and critical infrastructure.

Late on 2 October 2019, the Russian state-owned Sberbank announced that it was conducting an internal investigation due to a data leak which affected ‘at least 200 clients’, adding that the safety of the clients’ funds was not compromised. However, the number of affected clients provided by bank differs significantly from the number published in the media. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that personal information up to 60 million credit card holders ended up for sale on the online black market. According to Kommersant, the leak happened in August and the seller who placed the offer on some Internet forums offered potential buyers a trial fragment of the database – the personal data of 200 people. The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) reportedly blocked the website offering trial database fragments and demanded additional information from the bank. On 5 October, Sberbank said that it identified the employee ‘who had tried to steal client data for personal gain’, insisting that only 200 credit cards were compromised. Two days later, the bank published a statement that the data of 5 000 credit card clients of Sberbank’s Urals Bank were sold to a criminal group on the Darknet in late September this year. On 23 October, Kommersant reported that Sberbank’s client database reappeared on the black market, but with some additional data. So far, Sberbank has denied a new data leakage

In the opening of EU Cybersecurity Month, a new educational tool was launched in Romania – the Kidibot Cybersecurity Training. The tool allows pupils, third to the eight grade, to engage in learning about the various online safety challenges and find information on how to prevent them. The initiative is integrated in the online platform www.kidibot.ro, using a gaming approach. Through the platform children can improve their cybersecurity skills, have access to mentoring from experts, as well as join an online competition designed to engage them through an entertaining approach. The initiative was launched by the NGO StartEvo with the support of the Romanian Ministry for Communications and Information Society (MCSI) and the Romanian National Computer Security Incident Response Team (CERT-RO).

Access

The Romanian National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) and the telecom industry agreed to improve access for people with disabilities to mobile and Internet services, by reviewing the tariff packages to increase the number of minutes, SMS, and the volume of data. The end-users with hearing and/or speech disabilities will be entitled to unlimited SMS within their network and 300 SMS to other networks at a recommended price of EUR 4 per month. At the user’s request, the service providers will offer a data volume of a minimum 3 GB and unlimited amounts of data for video interpretation services in sign language through dedicated applications, at a recommended price of EUR 2 per month. The total recommended price of the package is EUR 6 per month. At the same time, the end-users with visual disabilities will benefit from 2000 minutes in their network and 500 minutes to other networks at a recommended price of EUR 2 per month. At the user’s request, the providers will offer a mobile data volume of 3 GB at a recommended rate of EUR 2 per month. The total recommended price of this package is EUR 4 per month.

The Greek Ministries of Digital Governance and Education have announced that the Internet speeds in all Greek schools are to be significantly improved. The current provider will upgrade existing asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) connections to very high-speed digital subscriber line (VDSL) ones, at zero cost for taxpayers. About 1.37 million students and 142 000 teachers at 11 400 schools and 10 000 laboratories across the country are expected to benefit from higher Internet speeds, upon the completion of the project.

The Romanian National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) launched an online platform www.aisemnal.ro (translated as ‘you got a signal’), which is mapping mobile connectivity across the residential areas (with minimum ten inhabitants), national and regional roads. The platform offers information about all existing technologies (2G/3G/4G) for all mobile network operators active in Romania. Through this map, ANCOM reportedly wants to support mobile users and offer answers to the following questions: Where is the best mobile phone signal? Is there q signal inside? Is there q signal outside? What are the areas with a weak signal? What are the areas without any coverage? The information included in the map was collected between May and September 2019 and reflects the situation as of the date of its publishing

 

Capacity development

Eight Romanian associations and civil society organisations have launched a Coalition for Digital Education, aimed at supporting the development of quality digital education in Romania. The coalition advocates for changes to the education system, so that schools prepare children and youth for the digital transformation of society and the transformation of the world of work. It also intends to contribute to the extension and consolidation of non-formal training in the field of digital education, and the integration of library spaces, maket spaces and technology hubs in the non-formal education ecosystem. The coalition has expressed its willingness to cooperate with the Ministry of Education, the Parliament, and other public entities at the national and local level, as well as with organisations and companies interested in promoting digital education in Romania.

A free robotics training programme for children was launched in Serbia and will run between September 2019 and April 2020. Titled Learning for the 21st century, the programme is addressed to students between 11 and 14 years old and will be implemented across 12 Serbian cities, by SEE ICT in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Children will have an opportunity to acquire basic knowledge in programming and robotics, and will be able to interact with robots that can perform different tasks such as running, jumping, drawing, etc. Each training session will last three hours and the teaching methods will include interactive elements such as playing with and operating robots through simple programming codes. This project is expected to build capacities that will help prepare children resolving real-life problems via programming and robotics.

Samsung Electronics has launched its Samsung Innovation Campus (SIC) – the latest global citizenship programme for young adults – in Russia. The new programme offers IT education to help young adults gain academic and professional skills useful in the fourth industrial revolution. The SIC curriculum is built around the topics of artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of things, big data, cloud and mobile platforms, as well as focused on improving skills in creativity, communication, and teamwork for future employment. The SIC offers both classroom learning and, from 2020, online-based courses that can lead to official certifications. Russia has been chosen as the first market to launch SIC because earlier Samsung IT education programmes have been well-received in this country. The company plans to expand SIC to other countries offering tailored curriculums customized for the local participants.

The Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development of Serbia, Mr Mladen Šarčević has opened the Centre for Educational Technology which will operate as part of the Institute for Evaluation of Education and Upbringing. The newly established centre is expected to measure the results of the application of digital technologies at schools. Speaking at the launch event, the minister also referred to the achieved results in the digitalisation of the education system and stated the goal to make IT education accessible to youngest pupils from next year.

For the fourth consecutive year, mobile operator Orange Moldova has run its #SuperCoders project in 57 Moldovan schools. On the first stage, Orange volunteers trained and supported over 60 informatics teachers across the country in holding practical coding classes. On the second stage, over 1200 kids in-between 9 and 13 years old attended 61 coding workshops that were held simultaneously all over the country on 26 October. The project is aimed at equipping children with basic coding skills in a fun and easy way by teaching them Scratch programming language, drag and drop techniques, animation and games creation basics that develop logical thinking, creativity and teamwork. The participation in the workshops is free of charge. 

Development

The European Union’s Regional Competitiveness Index (RCI) latest data shows significant challenges in the SEE countries compared with other EU member states, positioning Slovenia as the most competitive country in the entire SEE region. The RCI measures NUTS2 regions (Nomenclature of territorial units for statistics) in all the 28 EU countries based on 11 dimensions – grouped in 3 sub-indexes, as it follows: Basic sub-index (institutions, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure, health, basic education), Efficiency sub-index (higher education and life-long learning, labour market efficiency, market size), Innovation sub-index (technological readiness, business sophistication, innovation).

In the 2019 edition, six SEE countries are covered: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Slovenia. Overall, the Index highlights that the SEE countries are lagging behind compared with the rest of the EU countries. Therefore, while none of the SEE countries is part of the top ten performers, three countries are included in the bottom ten: five Greek regions, one Romanian region, and one Bulgarian region. Among them, the best ranked is Slovenia – with a total score of 0.03 and the only one with an overall positive score – followed by Cyprus (-0.29), Croatia (-0.74), Bulgaria (-0.93), Greece (-0.97), Romania (-1.13).

From the three sub-indices, the Innovation one is considered to be instrumental for a marginal increase in the level of competitiveness, as good performers in this dimension are also considered to be good performers in the other two indices as well – Basic and Efficiency.

From a SEE perspective, when looking inside the three categories of the Innovation sub-index, it can be noticed that no country, namely no SEE NUTS2 region receives a positive score for technological readiness, but better situations can be found for Business sophistication and Innovation categories, where four countries receive positive scores: Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Slovenia. Four NUTS2 regions obtaining scores between 0.11 and 0.66 in Business sophistication: Cyprus – Kipros, Greece – Attiki and Kriti, Slovenia – Zahdona Slovenja, and two regions obtaining positive scores for Innovation: Slovenia – Zahdona Slovenja (0.84) and Romania – Bucharest-Ilfov (0.18). From all SEE countries, Slovenia is also the best positioned in the Innovation sub-index with a 0.35 overall score.

China and 17 Central and Eastern European countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia) have signed the Belgrade Declaration on collaboration in the field of innovation, at the Fourth China-CEEC Conference on Innovation Cooperation held in Belgrade. The Belgrade Declaration is expected to harmonise activities of the signatories in the field of innovation. Moreover, China and Serbia signed 12 cooperation agreements in the area of innovation. The signed agreements are expected to facilitate collaboration between Serbian and Chinese research centres, improve academic exchanges, and help the development and promotion of the Open Innovation Platform. The conference is part of the Belt and Road Initiative which aims to connect Asia with Africa and Europe in order to improve regional integration, increase trade and stimulate economic growth.

The Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation has included under its umbrella a center of competences for digital public administration, newly created within the framework of the national programme Digital Economy of the Russian Federation. The center is charged with providing expert and analytical support to the federal project on digital public administration in four key areas: digital transformation of state and municipal services, digital transformation of state and municipal civil service, creation of cross-cutting digital infrastructure and platforms, and ensuring digital transformation of public administration. The centre will create specialised expert groups with the participation of business representatives and industry experts, to consider their views and positions regarding the development of the federal project. 

In Serbia, 35 local authorities are receiving EUR 260 000 euros in total to develop e-governance systems and enhance the provision of e-services to citizens and businesses. The funding is granted by the government of Switzerland through the Swiss PRO Programme, which will additionally provide technical support for the development and establishment of internal processes, regulations and governance structures needed for digital transformations at the local level. The winners of the public call Let’s Click Together, open between 5 July and 26 August 2019 to 96 cities and municipalities, will be working on developing e-services such as enrollment to kindergarten, applications for agricultural subsidies, tax returns, issuance of birth certificates, access to information of public importance and legal aid, reporting utility issues and submitting citizens’ complaints, as well as establishing or improving e-registries and e-archives. Optional technical support has been approved for 20 projects which will provide assistive technology for persons with disabilities, as well as establish or upgrade systems for greater citizen participation in policymaking processes through e-participation and e-discussion.

The Ukrainian government has launched a pilot project that allows using electronic driving license and vehicle registration certificate that can be presented to a police officer upon request, instead of existing plastic documents. E-driving license and e-technical documents will have unique QR-codes; by scanning the codes, a police officer can check the data in the electronic databases of the unified information system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. During the last year, Ukrainians have paid UAH 71 million (around USD 2,84 million) fines for not carrying a license or a technical document when driving a car. To order e-documents, a driver has to download a mobile application from the Unified State Portal of Electronic Services and complete an electronic identification form. It is expected that e-driving license and e-technical documents could be used starting from December 2019. Additionally, the government has approved a draft law that would allow ordering number plates for vehicles over the Internet from any producer, thus avoiding manipulations with overpriced so-called VIP number plates.

Starting from 1 October 2019, nationals of 53 states can apply for e-visa to enter the Russian city of Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad region through air, naval, automobile, and pedestrian checkpoints. Noteworthy that entry and exit with e-visa by means of rail transport is currently unavailable. An e-visa is issued within four calendar days, including weekends and bank holidays, and is valid for 30 days with a period of stay up to 8 days. An application form is available online, and does not require any additional invitations or confirmations. The e-visa is issued free of charge. Over 2330 individuals applied for an e-visa during the first day of the service being active.

Taxation

The Prime Minister of Serbia, Ms Ana Brnabić, has announced a new tax incentive to attract digital nomads, at the Coliving Coworking SEE Conference, held on 9–11 October. The first iteration of the incentive will offer digital nomads a zero tax rate for income earned while working in Serbia (for a set amount of time – 90 days). The Serbian government is working to attract startups, research programmes and creatives through a variety of initiatives, said Brnabić. This incentive is a part of the newly launched Serbia Creates campaign, through which the government plans to support programmes, funding and new educational standards.

E-signatures

Thirteen years after the adoption of the Law on electronic signatures, the issuing qualified electronic signature certificates becomes a reality in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Qualified electronic signature certificates will be issued by the Slovenian company Halcom, which was authorised by the competent authorities to provide such services, having demonstrated that it meets security and data protection requirements. Having the same legal value as a written signature, the qualified electronic signatures will be issued exclusively to the owner on a secure medium (e.g. a smart card or flash drive), and will be valid for a three-year period. The Ministry of Transport and Communications has also announced that it drafted a law on electronic identification, aligned with EU regulations in this field, which was submitted to the parliament for review and adoption.

Privacy and data protection

On 2 September 2019, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Armenia to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Mr Paruyr Hovhannisyan signed the Protocol amending the Convention 108 for the protection of individuals regarding the processing of personal data. The amending protocol, also known as the Convention 108+, was passed in May 2018 with the aim to better address emerging privacy challenges related to use of new information and communication technologies and to strengthen the implementation of the Convention adopted in 1981. Changes introduced in 2018 include new obligations for data controllers (e.g. guaranteeing the transparency of data processing and notifying security breaches) and rights for data subjects (e.g. the right to obtain knowledge of the reasoning underlying the data procession, and the right not to be subject to a decision which is based solely on an automated processing, without taking the data subject’s views into consideration). Armenia is the 34th signatory of the Convention 108+.

Earlier this year, the Romanian government adopted an emergency ordinance that conditioned purchase of prepaid SIM card upon presentation of an ID card, effective as of 1 January 2020. Existing prepaid SIM cards’ users are obliged to provide their personal data by 1 September 2020 or face disconnection. The key idea behind this legislative initiative is to prevent abuses with calling the emergency service 112, but also improve the efficiency of emergency response by location tracking. While currently in force, the ordinance still needs to be approved by the bicameral Romanian Parliament. In October, following criticism from civil society groups and an Ombudsman’s plea to the Constitutional Court over the ordinance’s privacy implications, the Senate removed from the ordinance the provisions related to the personal identification of prepaid SIM cards’ holders. The final say is now left to the Chamber of Deputies, which being the Parliament’s decision-making body on this act might either support the Senate or leave the text of the ordinance in its initial wording. We will follow the legislative process and provide an update in the upcoming SEEsummary issues.

The Personal Data Protection Authority of Turkey (KVKK) has fined Facebook TRY 1.6 million in total for violating the country’s data protection laws. The KVKK imposed a TRY 1.15 million fine on Facebook because 280 959 Turkish citizens had their personal information impacted by the privacy breach. Even though the KVKK launched an investigation into the data breach after Facebook had not notified errors in some of its applications, the authority did not specify any details about the breach in the ruling. Additionally, Facebook got a TRY 450 000 fine for not reporting the privacy breach to authorities.

The Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA) has imposed two administrative fines of EUR 200 000 each to OTE, one of the dominant telecommunication providers in Greece. The fines were imposed due to technical deficiencies that resulted in breaching the principle of accuracy and data protection by design, as well as for failing to secure the users’ right to object to their data being processed, and the principle of data protection by design. The greatest fined imposed from HPDA in the past was EUR 150 000, to PWC.

The Romanian National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing (ANSPDCP) has published an updated list of 55 corrective actions showcasing the level of compliance of various Romanian entities with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The large majority of these corrective actions, applied between June and September 2019, resulted in warnings or further clarifications for which ANSPDCP is still awaiting the responses. Among the receivers of warnings are private companies (flights aggregators, telecom and insurance companies, online and offline retailers, medical centres, banks), non-profit and property-owners associations, universities, municipalities and other local institutions. In addition, in September and October 2019, three more penalties were imposed: Inteligo Media SA – fined with EUR 9 000, Raiffeisen Bank SA – fined with EUR 150 000 and Vreau Credit SRL – fined with EUR 20 000. Until the end of October 2019, Romania has imposed a total of seven GDPR fines.

Russian leading telecom operator Rostelecom, system integrator Norvix-Technology and IDM Lab have signed a tripartite agreement to expand the application of the Unified Biometric System (UBS), in particular by using biometric technologies to ensure fast track access in airports. The system was tested during the Finopolis 2019 fintech forum, where participants registered in the UBS could get accreditation, receive their badge and access the event by simply looking into the camera or pressing the palm to the detector, while the system automatically identified whether a person was included in the list of attendees. Over 1500 participants (each fifth person) used the fast track access during the forum. Additionally, almost 500 Finopolis attendees paid for their coffee with a single glance into the camera at specifically equipped points organised by Rostelecom and Russian Standard Bank. Prior to making such a purchase, participants had to provide their biometric data to any bank with respective equipment to transfer data to the UBS, and to connect the bank card to a digital identity. Payments for goods by using UBS are expected to be available in the Coffee Bean cafe chain soon.  

Content policy & Freedom of expression

In early October 2019, Turkish citizens in the southern part of the country had their access to social media platforms and messaging services (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp) restricted for about 48 hours. The restriction, which happened in the context of Turkey’s military intervention in northern Syria, only affected users and subscribers of the service provider Turk Telekom. According to NetBlocks, which reported the restriction, the online services were accessible via other fixed-line and mobile providers, and Virtual Private Networks were effective in circumventing the Turk Telekom restriction.

The Public Association ‘Lawyers for Human Rights’, created by Code for Romania, with the financial support of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) has launched Anonim.md – a platform intended to help Moldovan citizens send sensitive information and documents, allegedly of public interest, journalists and NGOs. Users can choose the organisation they want to share information with and track the responses. The information provided via the platforms can be used for potential investigations. Anonim.md also offers the possibility to communicate anonymously, securely and free of charge with any recipient within the platform. This platform ensures that the transmitted files are cleaned from meta-data and the sources can not be tracked back.

National and youth IGF initiatives

National and youth IGF initiatives​ that had meetings in October 2019

The 5th Armenian Internet Governance Forum (ArmIGF) was organised by the multistakeholder Internet Governance Council (IGC) of the Republic of Armenia, with the support of the Ministry of High-Tech Industry, Internet Society NGO and Internet Society Armenia Chapter NGO. The IGF was held in the context of a broader N2 Forum, under the theme ‘Working together for the digital future’. Mr Hakob Arshakyan, High-Tech Industry Minister, opened the forum, which started with a high-level session on the challenges and opportunities of the digital future. Other topics covered during the event included data storage, encryption, local content, online news and cybersecurity. The event also marked the 25th anniversary of .am, the country-code top level domain of Armenia.

The first Armenian Youth Internet Governance Forum was organised as a platform for Armenian youth to discuss Internet-related issues as they impact their present and future. The long-day event started with an interactive role-playing session in which students, representing governments, the private sector and the civil society, discussed possible solutions to address online privacy challenges. Other topics covered included future technologies and their security and privacy implications, personal data protection and cyber-hygiene, and the Internet of things. Students were encouraged to engage in national and international debates on Internet governance issues, as well as contribute to the organisation of the second edition of the Youth IGF.

The 2019 meeting of the Macedonian Internet Governance Forum (IGF MKD) was organised with the institutional support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Information Society and Public Administration. The event kick-started with welcoming speeches by institutional partners and key supporting organisations, which were followed by three panels on Internet-related issues. The first panel discussed the challenges of online disinformation and looked into whether media regulation or self-regulation could help address such challenges. The other two panels featured debates on legal aspects of Internet governance (from the perspective of intellectual property, human rights and data protection), and cybersecurity from a technical and regulatory perspective.

Opportunities

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

Upcoming deadlines

During the legathon, 30 participants will generate an interface for the National Anticorruption Center’s (NAC) platform, which would allow reporting the laws or the normative acts containing ambiguous and interpretable provisions, which may generate corruption. The best interface proposal will be used for the NAC platform. The event is designed for young people passionate about programming languages, databases and information bases, as well as for young professionals from IT area, who may develop UXs and are skilled in design (inputs, labels, tabs, typography etc.). The participants will work in six teams of five persons, so those willing to participate may register individually or collectively as a team. The deadline for registration is 3 November. More details available at the event’s Facebook page. The winning teams will get awards.

The National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest, the Faculty of Public Administration and the Development and Urban Planning research working group will organise the 7th edition of the Smart Cities International Conference, on 5–6 December 2019, in Bucharest, Romania. Academics, policy makers, practitioners, researchers and students from all areas of administrative sciences and beyond are invited to participate and submit papers on a wide range of topics related to smart governance. Examples include e-government, e-democracy, social innovation, urban planning and development, and public management. Abstracts can be submitted until 3 November, but a deadline extension is expected. The selected papers will be published in the Smart Cities and Regional Development Journal, as well as in the Journal of E-Technology.

The Internet Society Board of Trustees is responsible for the governance of the organisation, and its authority is derived from the organisation’s by-laws and policies. In 2020, Internet Society chapters will elect two (2) trustees, organisation members will elect one (1) trustee, and the IETF will appoint one (1) trustee. The term of office is three years, beginning in August 2020 and ending mid-year 2023. Trustees are expected to commit the time necessary to perform regular Board and committee business, as well as to allocate time to attend and prepare for meetings. Detailed eligibility criteria can be found here. Self-nominations or third-party nominations should be sent to the Nominations Committee using the online forms and include a Statement of Interest and a resumé or one-page narrative biography. The deadline for nominations is 15:00 UTC on 6 December 2019.

Upcoming events

1 November 2019 Nicosia, Cyprus

2–3 November 2019 Chisinau, Moldova

2 November 2019 Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina

3 November 2019 Ankara, Turkey

4–5 November 2019 Bucharest, Romania

5–6 November 2019 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

6–7 November 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

7–8 November 2019 Bucharest, Romania

7–8 November 2019 Bucharest, Romania

8 November 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

9 November 2019 Tirana, Albania

12 November 2019 Sofia, Bulgaria

12-13 November 2019 Saint Petersburg, Russia

12–14 November 2019 Bucharest, Romania

12 November 2019 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

14 November 2019 Tirana, Albania

13–15 November 2019 Skopje, North Macedonia

15 November 2019 Skopje, North Macedonia

14–15 November 2019 Sofia, Bulgaria

14–16 November 2019 Tbilisi, Georgia

19 November 2019 Minsk, Belarus

19–20 November 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

21 November 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

23–24 November 2019 Athens, Greece

27 November 2019 Nova Gorica, Slovenia

28 November 2019 Bucharest, Romania

29 November – 1 December 2019 Skopje, North Macedonia

***

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.

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