Address of the President of the Republic of Srpska at the panel “Equal Opportunities in the Digital Age” within the International Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg

06/06/2019

The President Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović addressed today at the panel “Equal Opportunities in the Digital Age” held at the International Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg.

The President of the Republic of Srpska pointed out that it is very important that governments recognise the importance of digital economy and digitisation in general, and create the preconditions and framework for rapid transformation, since the economic growth of each national and global economy will depend on this.

The President of the Republic pointed out that economic and social benefits will have only those countries that realise the importance of transformations and the trick on the digital economy, and all those who continue to live in old habits and routines will lag behind competitiveness, economic growth and development.

“The Republic of Srpska has prepared an ambitious plan regarding the sphere of digitisation, and many of the important projects have already been implemented, some are in the implementation phase and many more are planned. Numerous internet services have been or are being set up that make for simpler and more efficient work of the public administration, easier and speedier business transactions, on-line business registration, straightforward and improved communication between citizens and institutions, as well as better access of citizens to services”, said the President Cvijanović.

The President of Srpska emphasized that a new Ministry of Scientific and Technological Development, Higher Education and Information Society has been established in order to better connect universities with the business community and introduce digital economy tools, but also to follow new trends in the area of digitalisation.

“We have done a lot and planned a lot in the Republic of Srpska, but despite the fact that we have creative potential, our entire region, the Western Balkans, is lagging behind EU states in terms of innovation, technological development and competitiveness. In order to catch up with developed countries, we need many more well trained experts in completely new fields”, it was emphasized by the President of the Republic.

The President of Srpska pointed to the fact that many primary school students of today, after finishing their secondary and university education, will get jobs that do not even exist today or whose creation we can barely predict, while many currently existing jobs will be extinct or obsolete.

Which is why it is so important to constantly implement education reform in accordance with the demands of the labour market and contemporary trends, but also to reform the overall business environment to embrace new approaches and new corporate practices. This calls for a lot of adapting and a whole series of reforms. It also requires a considerably better ability to adapt, increased mobility of institutions, universities and the business community”, it was added by the President Cvijanović.

The President of the Republic emphasized that the issue of equality or the possibility of equal access is viewed in two ways.

“First, do all countries, in view of their different levels of development, have the same chance of entering the digital age and enjoying the same benefits from it? Certainly not, because they do not have the same starting point, so this is one dimension”, said the President of the Republic, adding that she feared that these differing starting points could contribute to widening the gap in future, which is why it is all the more important for governments to recognise the significance of digital economy and digitalisation in general and to create the necessary bases and framework for a rapid transformation, because economic growth of each and every national economy, and of course of the global [economy], will depend on it.

The President of Srpska stated that the second dimension has to do with gender participation and, from this aspect, the question we need to ask is whether men and women have equal opportunities in the digital age.

“If we look at the matter from a strictly formal point of view, we could say that there are no formal impediments in the education system for acquiring the necessary qualifications or any particular obstacles [for women] to get jobs or to work in this field. We could therefore say that there is no discrimination. Yet, numbers are not speaking in favour of equality”, said the President Cvijanović.

One of the models of how to resolve the problem of non-competitive professions, but also to make possible a larger inclusion of women in the digitalisation sphere in the Republic of Srpska, will be the programme of retraining of unemployed persons with higher education degrees in non-competitive professions, that will enable them to acquire the necessary qualifications and skills to find jobs in the IT sector, which are well in demand in the labour market.

According to the President, it is planned to establish a network of STEM centres for young people to obtain valuable knowledge, which will allow them to more easily enrol technical schools and find jobs.

“The digital age really offers ample opportunities that will certainly improve the everyday life of citizens, the quality of offered services and business operations, and will also have a great impact on economic growth. But, it also presents serious challenges before institutions, academia and the business community”, said the President Cvijanović.

In addition to the President of the Republic of Srpska, the panelists were, among others, the Deputy Chairman of the Federal Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia Galina Karelova (photo below the text), UN World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley and Deputy Head of the Expert Department of the President of the Russian Federation Svetlana Lukash.