SEEsummary #31 | September 2019

Issue no. 31 of the SEEsummary, published on 1 October 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 September 2019. Also included: a list of upcoming events (October 2019) and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders.

Contributors to this issue: Tamar Abzianidze, Maja Ćalović, Katarine Gevorgyan, Aleksandra Ivanković, Ana Jovanović, Olga Kyryliuk, Liljana Pecova Ilieska, Oliana Sula, Veronica Ștefan, Sorina Teleanu.

Telecommunications infrastructure

Internet service providers (ISPs) in Belarus will be obliged to support Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) along with IPv4 starting 1 January 2020, according to an amended version of the Presidential Decree on measures to improve the use of the national segment of the Internet. Thus, dual-stack solutions will be a legal requirement in Belarus, allowing ISPs to process IPv4 and IPv6 Internet traffic simultaneously. Providers will have to update all technical equipment (networking devices, servers, switches, routers etc.) and make it compatible with both IPv4 and IPv6. Over the past two years, several courses were organised by the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC – the Regional Internet Registry for Europe, Middle East and parts of Central Asia) for ISPs, to train them on how to work with the new protocol. Authorities in Belarus are of the view that the implementation of IPv6 is essential for ensuring an unrestricted development of the Internet industry.

Azerbaijan’s mobile operator and Internet provider Bakcell is continuing the deployment of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks in the country. During the last four months (May–September 2019), it installed over 1000 new LTE base stations supporting 4.5G technology. With a total of over 2700 4G base stations, Bakcell is providing Internet connection to almost 91% of the population. The company uses LTE-Advanced Carrier Aggregation technology allowing it to support speeds at up to 225 Mbps. Bakcell has also joined a project aimed at improving women leadership skills through IT and helping them to start their own business. Over 180 women have participated in the project, while six of them have already made the first steps to start their businesses.

In Russia, mobile operator Beeline has launched its second 5G pilot project, dedicated to testing 5G network equipment near the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The pilot comes in the context of an agreement concluded between Beeline and Moscow municipal authorities, and is implemented in cooperation with Huawei (in line with a protocol to pursue the joint development of 5G in Russia, signed by the two companies in May 2018). The infrastructure for the pilot was provided by infrastructure operator Russian Towers. The test network is expected to provide maximum broadband speed of 2.19 Gbps. Other 5G pilot zones have been set up by operator Tele2Russia and MTS, and MegaFon is reportedly planning a similar project.

Slovenia’s Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) has announced a public tender to designate an electronic communications universal service provider. The designated provider will be responsible for providing access to a public communications network, including telephone services at fixed locations and ensuring the reception of national and international calls. Simultaneously, AKOS has launched another tender for the  designation of a universal service provider of directory services containing information about subscribers of communications services. State-backed Telekom Slovenije and its directories subsidiary Teledat are the country’s current universal service providers. Applications under both tender calls are open until 22 October 2019.

Artificial intelligence

The Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER) of the University of Zagreb has announced the establishment of the first artificial intelligence (AI) centre in Croatia. The centre will share knowledge and provide support to all who find AI-related topics to be important, in line with recommendations on the development and application of AI adopted earlier this year by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU). One of its missions is to educate the general public about the possibilities of applying AI for social good.

Capacity development

Master 4.0, an initiative consisting of four interdisciplinary university programmes covering ICT-related topics, was presented to the government of Serbia. Developed by several Serbian faculties in cooperation with the private sector, the four programmes are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills required by the ICT industry. As such, the programmes will focus not only on ICT knowledge, but also on areas such as business skills, economics, finance, and law. Specific fields of study will include, among others, data analytics, bioinformatics, Internet of Things, machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, as well as business subjects such as management, finance and accounting, marketing and entrepreneurship. Master 4.0 is expected to be implemented at 13 faculties in Belgrade, Kragujevac and Niš, which have already started the accreditation process for the four programmes.

Starting in September 2019, Georgian schools are offering a new course on ’media economy’ to 10-15 year old students. The course is dedicated to raising children’s awareness about media literacy and the principles behind the functioning of social media networks. Economic and financial aspects of social media will be covered in the course, and students will learn about the financial model of platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia, how users data are collected and monetised, and how the users themselves contribute to the financing of such platforms. The course will also cover issues related to privacy and data protection, cyberbullying, how to spot online misinformation and disinformation, and how to avoid online threats when using social media. The initiative is run in cooperation with the Georgian National Communications Commission and is based on a programme run by the Evens Foundation in several EU member states.

The third edition of the Armenian School on Internet Governance (ArmSIG) was held in Yerevan on 11–13 September 2019, and was organised and hosted by Internet Society of Armenia and ISOC Armenia Chapter. Twenty participants selected from different stakeholder groups came to learn about the Internet and related policy issues from local and international experts. Domain name regulations, cyber hygiene and cybersecurity, human rights in the digital era and personal data protection, copyright issues, media literacy, and organisations in the Internet governance ecosystem were the main topics addressed. Participants were awarded certificates.

Development

Ukraine has transformed the State E-Governance Agency into a new Ministry of Digital Transformation in charge of all digitalisation processes in the country. Moreover, each ministry and regional state administration will have a position of deputy responsible for digitalisation, while a Special committee on digital transformation has already been created in the parliament. The creation of the ministry has been accompanied by the presentation of the digital state brand Diia, which is the acronym for ‛State and I’ in Ukrainian, but also is a standalone word that can be translated into English as ‛action’. Diia includes the following components: e-government, cybersecurity, e-democracy, e-business, e-court, e-healthcare, multimedia education, e-transport, smart cities, digital skills, and omnipresent Internet. As the first step towards the implementation of this concept, a single online portal of public services will be created, followed by the launch of a mobile application. It is expected that within three years, 100 percent of public services will be available online, with a 20 percent being provided automatically, without officials’ interference. The government also envisions that all cities and villages in Ukraine will be connected to the Internet, that the share of IT-business in the country’s GDP will grow to 10 percent, and  that 6 million Ukrainians will have basic digital skills. Over 90 e-projects are currently under elaboration, with personal online account, Smart ID, Mobile ID, e-baby, e-pension, e-residency and few others being available in a testing regime.

The Cypriot Cabinet of Ministers has approved a bill to establish a Deputy Ministry of Innovation and Digital Policy. The proposed ministry would be in charge of promoting research, innovation and digital transformation in Cyprus. The new body, to be led by a specialised deputy minister, would also incorporate the Department of Information Technology Services, currently under the Ministry of Finance. The bill needs to be approved by the Parliament, which is expected to discuss it in the upcoming weeks.  If approved the Parliament, the ministry could become operational as of January 2020.

Romania continues to support the digitalisation of its educational system by launching two new projects – the School Management Information System (SIMS – Electronic Catalog) and the Digital Platform with Open Educational Resources (EDULIB – Virtual Library), with a funding of EUR 48.47 million (100% European funds) and EUR 49.46 million, respectively (with 40.75 million euros of European funds). The Ministry of Communications and Information Society, the Ministry of European Funds and the Ministry of National Education are responsible for the projects’ implementation. With an implementation period of three years, the Electronic Catalog project will consist of an online platform to be used by the schools’ administration, teachers, students and parents to access information on students’ evaluation and absenteeism. The Virtual Library project, to be completed within two years, will result in a digital platform with open educational resources (OER) mainly designed for 5th-8th grade students. The project also foresees to equip 5400 secondary schools with multimedia kits for an efficient use of OER tools in the classroom. The integration of information platforms into the educational system is expected to increase its quality and efficiency.

Starting 1 October 2019, state authorities in Ukraine should fully shift to the electronic exchange of documents. Such a step is expected to improve the efficiency in terms of delivering and processing correspondence, which will be transferred through digital services, rather than delivered by courier. It is also considered as the first step towards a full-fledged digitalisation of all document workflow, which should be implemented in the next two years. Upon the digitalisation of documents, the government will conduct a revision to clarify which of these documents are not needed anymore. Moreover, the government announced its plans to establish an IT Creative Fund focused on the development of human capital and training qualified IT specialists. The Fund is to be financed by a special tax paid by the IT industry. Such a tax is supposed to grow progressively,  from 1% in 2020 to 5% in 2024. Funds will be used for three programmes: creating new campuses and courses for IT specialists, providing scholarships to students at Ukrainian universities and issuing grants to young scientists. The Fund is expected to be operationalised in 2020, with an initial capital of 0.5 billion Ukrainian hryvnias. 

The Minister of Innovation and Technological Development of Serbia, Mr Nenad Popović and the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, Mr Karel Havlíček have signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of innovation, artificial intelligence and robotics. The agreement outlines cooperation activities which are expected to support the digitalisation of industries and urban areas in both countries, while also facilitate closer collaboration between researchers, scientists, start-ups and academia in the field of innovation. The signatories have also committed to working together to develop policies to support advancements in innovation, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia have signed an agreement on the mutual recognition of qualified certification services for electronic transactions provided in Montenegro and qualified trust services provided in North Macedonia. It is expected that the provision of cross-border services would become smoother, eliminating barriers to e-commerce, while enabling the use and ensuring the uniform legal recognition of qualified certification, trust services, and electronic identification in both countries. This means, for example, that electronic documents issued by institutions in North Macedonia, such as the Central Registry, the Customs Service, the Office for management of registers of births, marriages and deaths, will be equally recognised in Montenegro, which would significantly reduce the administrative procedures and the time needed to issue these documents. The agreement is also expected to contribute to improving cooperation and accelerating the process of digital transformation in the two countries.

On 18 September 2019, the Romanian Ministry of Communications and Informations Society (MCSI) announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on digital cooperation, between Poland and Romania. The document is reported to aim at enhancing the cooperation in the framework of ICT regulations, strengthening the exchange of information and good practices related to digital public services (e-health, e-education, e-culture), and intensifying the joint efforts to prevent and combat cybercrime. Moreover, the two countries have committed to working towards the interoperability of emerging technologies, open data, as well as other data available in the public sector. The MoU was signed by Mr Alexandru Petrescu, Romanian Minister of Communications and Information Society and Mr Marek Zagórski, Polish Minister for Digital Affairs.

E-commerce

Four of the biggest e-commerce platforms in Europe – eMAG (Romania), Cdiscount (France), ePrice (Italy) and Real.de (Germany) – which are hosting about 30 000 online sellers, co-founded the International Marketplace Network (IMN), a platform that offers access to a market of over 230 million potential clients. The IMN favours the development of the digital single market and offers an interface that connects the four marketplace platforms, which sellers can use as a single point of work to synchronise their offers on each of the four platforms. IMN is presented as a fast way for sellers to expand their business in Europe at no additional cost. By joining this initiative, the Romanian eMAG continues its efforts to develop projects that bring added value to national sellers and consolidate its e-commerce ecosystem. For customers, IMN is a way to access a much wider range of products and services located in the country of origin, at competitive prices. The IMN platform will initially run in a beta version, but will be developed in the following months and more marketplace platforms and sellers are expected to join.

Economic

The Romanian National Bank has launched the Fintech Innovation Hub, a platform aimed at facilitating a direct dialogue with the FinTech sector and offering an institutional framework for promoting the most innovative projects, while also monitoring them to ensure that they respect security standards. The initiative is focused on supporting innovation in payments and financial services, in a controlled manner and for the benefit of consumers, at the same time seeking to identify potential risks and solutions to manage them. Selected companies will have access to information and guidance offered by the central bank, related to the compliance of their FinTech products and services with the legal provisions, and the overall legal framework concerning the authorisation and/or registration of specific products and services. Interested companies and startups which offer innovative but sufficiently mature FinTech products and services can apply at all times through a basic registration form, their applications being reviewed on a rolling basis.

The Serbian Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communication (RATEL) has launched a new portal, Ceneusluga.rs. This portal provides information on multiple electronic communications services provided by operators, including landline and mobile telephones, Internet and television. Consumers can use the portal to search and compare services in the same category according to different criteria such as price, number of minutes, the speed of data transfer, TV channels, etc.

Privacy and data protection

On 6 September 2019, the Permanent Representative of Greece to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Panayiotis Beglitis signed the Protocol amending Convention 108 for the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data. The updated convention, colloquially referred to 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 1995. 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 the data subject having her/his views taken into consideration). So far the protocol has been signed by 32 countries, including Greece.

The Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RAK) has issued a reminder on the expiration of the deadline imposed on telecommunication operators regarding the implementation of the obligations related to legal interception. The operators that will fail to comply by 11 November 2019 may have their services terminated. Upon notification from the Joint Committee on Legal Interception and Manner of Performing Activities, RAK will impose executive measures against all providers of electronic communications networks and services that do not comply with the legal requirements. Such executive measures will take the form of fines and the obligatory termination of the provision of services until the prescribed conditions of legal interception are fulfilled. The Agency appeals to the operators to comply with the legal requirements and urges end users to contact their operators to find out whether they have fulfilled their obligations by the indicated deadline.

Content policy

The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) claims that Google and Facebook distributed political advertising during the election silence on 7 and 8 September 2019 (in the context of local and regional elections held in the country), even though they had been previously asked to obey electoral legislation. ‘Such actions can be considered as interference in Russia’s sovereign affairs and hindering the conduct of democratic elections in the Russian Federation’, the watchdog published on its website. The  two tech companies have neither confirmed nor denied the claims. Google stated its support for responsible political advertising, in line with local legislation. Facebook said it is not on them to comply with local election laws but on advertisers.

According to the President of Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) Mr Ebubekir Şahin, US online streaming service Netflix has applied for a license to continue operating in Turkey under a new regulation which came into force last month. Additionally, Şahin posted on Twitter that over 600 institutions had submitted applications for licenses by the beginning of September. The new regulation gave RTÜK the authority to license and monitor all online content providers which broadcast in Turkey. These providers are obliged to obtain a license and to follow RTÜK guidelines. The same rules apply to foreign companies which have to establish a legal presence in Turkey to get a licence. Many have criticised the regulation as it could lead to media censorship, but Turkish officials claim that the rules are necessary for ‘the protection of national security and moral inside the country’. Netflix has so far declined to comment on this issue.

Opportunities

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

Upcoming deadlines

The first Winter School on Internet Governance, Digital Policies and Innovation will take place on 9–13 December 2019, in Bucharest, Romania. SIDI Bucharest is designed for students and professionals keen to learn more about digital innovation, the impact of the Internet and other digital technologies on our society and economy, as well as the multiple dimensions of digital policy and Internet governance. The School is mainly addressed to citizens or residents of economies in South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area. Selected participants will join a thorough week-long programme comprising lectures, interactive sessions and students-led activities on topics such as Internet technology, security and trust, advanced digital technologies, and Internet economy and policy. Applications are open until 15 October 2019.

‘Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media‘ is seeking proposals aimed at building capacities of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia to promote media and information literacy (MIL) practices and policies at the local level. The call for proposals is open to professional associations, advocacy groups, community media, start-up incubators established as CSOs, art companies/troupes – with media, education, advocacy, public campaigning, art programmes production or development of digital innovation projects. In particular, CSOs promoting equal opportunities (for the youth, the elderly, minorities, ethnic groups) are encouraged to apply. Applications are open until the first week of October; check individual call for more details.

As a part of the CyberBRICS project, the Fundação Getulio Vargas Rio de Janeiro Law School – FGV DIREITO RIO has launched a call for applications for the CyberBRICS Fellowship Programme. The call is open to post-graduate, doctoral and postdoctoral scholars who are citizens of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, or have affiliations to academic institutions located in these countries. The fellowship is expected to last from February to July 2020, but the start and end date can be negotiated. Five selected fellows will be based in Rio de Janeiro and each of them will receive 8.500 BRL per month if they are PhD holder or 7.500 BRL per month if they have a master’s degree and proven work experience. The main responsibilities of CyberBRICS fellows will be to conduct research on Internet access and digitalisation of public administrations in the BRICS countries and to teach undergraduate and master students. The deadline for applications is 10 November 2019.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Serbia is looking for consultants in the following fields: software development, web design, blockchain, data science, chatbots, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Applicants should submit a CV, offeror’s letter and cover letter. Detailed information about the requirements for each position can be found on the UNDP website. The call is open until 6 October 2019.

The Orange Foundation offers scholarships of excellence for computer science, mathematics and physics teachers in Moldova. The project is implemented in cooperation with the University Information Center and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research. The winners will get 25 thousand lei scholarship and a laptop. Eligibility criteria and a list of required application documents can be found here. All applications must be submitted in person or by registered letter. It is the fifth edition of the project, and the first time when its scope has been extended to teachers of mathematics and physics. The deadline for applications is 1 November 2019.

Orange Romania has launched the third edition of the Fast SuperCoders programme that teaches students of IV-VII grades visual programming and creating animated games. The workshops will take place in Orange smart shops in 12 cities between 23 September and 9 October. Participation in Fast SuperCoders workshops is free, but places are limited. The schedule of workshops can be found here.



Upcoming events

1 October 2019 Bucharest, Romania

2 October 2019 Budva, Montenegro

2–3 October 2019 Bucharest, Romania

3–4 October 2019 Niš, Serbia

3–5 October 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

3–4 October 2019 St. Petersburg, Russia

4-5 October 2019 Lviv, Ukraine

5 October 2019 Skopje, North Macedonia

5 October 2019 Limassol, Cyprus

6–9 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

7 October 2019 Bucharest, Romania

7 October 2019 Cluj-Napoca, Romania

9 October 2019 Moscow, Russia

9–10 October 2019 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

10 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

10 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

10 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

10–12 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

10–11 October 2019 Opatija, Croatia

10–11 October 2019 Zagreb, Croatia

11 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

11 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

11–12 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

11–12 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

11–13 October 2019 Sofia, Bulgaria

12–15 October 2019 Zlatibor, Serbia

14 October 2019 Zagreb, Croatia

16–18 October 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

16–18 October 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

17 October 2019 Tirana, Albania

17–19 October 2019 Ohrid, North Macedonia

18–19 October 2019 Minsk, Belarus

21–23 October 2019 Moscow, Russia

22–24 October 2019 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

22–25 October 2019 Moscow, Russia

24–25 October 2019 Cluj-Napoca, Romania

25 October 2019 Skopje, North Macedonia

30–31 October 2019 Tbilisi, Georgia

30–31 October 2019 Bucharest, Romania

30–31 October 2019 Odessa, Ukraine

30 October – 1 November 2019 Athens, Greece

31 October 2019 Skopje, North Macedonia

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Editorial note

The SEEsummary is produced on a best effort basis, by our team of volunteer editors. Each month, the editors scan local and regional media, as well as websites of public institutions and other organisations, and compile what they find to be some of the most significant digital policy developments.

The SEEsummary does not claim to be a comprehensive source of information. Despite our efforts, we may miss some things happening across the region. To help us cover as many significant developments as possible, we invite you to share with us news from your countries.

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