MACEDONIA A TELECOMMUNICATION LEADER IN THE REGION

Skopje, 2nd February 2012

Marta Arsovska Tomovska, Deputy Minister of information society and administration, Interview for the "KAPITAL" magazine

 

 

- What are the competences of the Ministry of Information Society and Administration?

 

The Ministry of Information Society and Administration is the youngest ministry in Macedonia, established in 2008 as the Ministry of Information Society. In 2011, the Government allocated it responsibilities in the part of public administration, and at the beginning of 2012 also in the part of communications, taking over telecommunication sector from the Ministry of Transport and Communication. In short, the role of the Ministry is creation and implementation of development policies for information society promotion on one, and the central administrative body and policy creator in administration in a whole on the other hand. Furthermore, the Ministry has certain responsibilities for monitoring work of several state bodies and institutions, such as the Agency of Administration, the State Administrative Inspectorate, the Agency for Electronic communications, the Broadcasting Council, etc.

 

- Why are responsibilities for administration and information society put together in one ministry? 

 

In this stage of public administration reforms bringing close of these two competences is not only useful, but I think necessary too. We are talking about processes that need to be analyzed, simplified and preferably automated. Automation implies application of information and communication technologies in everyday operation of institutions and introduction of electronic services for citizens, companies, as well as for institution employees themselves.

 

- What is the impact of introducing electronic services in public administration and how can it increase quality of administration work? What are the examples and experiences of other countries?

 

Classical example is the one-stop-shop system in the Customs. After it was first introduced in 2008, getting an import license, for example for meat import, takes several hours instead of days. The importer sends an electronic request from his to the customs office, the customs distributes information about the consignment to other competent institutions, further on they give approval electronically and a truck can enter the country. Neither the importer, coming from a province, visits ten different windows in Skopje and spends time and money for fuel, nor the customs officer can hold his truck and spoil his goods asking for a service in return. It is true, Macedonian one-stop-shop system is one of the most famous examples for efficient customs systems in the world, and as such it was presented by the World Customs Organization, the European Commission and the United Nations. At the same time it was awarded as an applicative solution by the leading IMB company. Further on, we should mention the electronic system for company registration in the Central Register – in three days only you can start a business without appearing at windows. Only five-six countries in the world, including Macedonia, can be proud of such a quick and efficient service.

 

Although in certain segments we are leaders on a world scale, still there is much work to do for reaching the necessary development level. The term information society itself as a part of the name of our Ministry implies application of information and communication technologies in all spheres of society, and not only in the public sector. The information technology is a powerful tool for economic development of a society, as well as a promoter of the world economy. The world is already said to be a “global world” with “intelligent nations”, and the “Internet-generations” who live in “digital cities” have “always connected” life style. Exactly these nations have the highest economic growth, with easily run business, and citizens have the highest living standard. For example, Singapore is an intelligent nation with more than a thousand electronic government services at various sophistication levels and that is the reason why Singapore is the leader in indexes of free, innovative, competitive, simple business running and the least corrupted economy.

 

- What information society projects does the Ministry work on?

 

Our Ministry has a very difficult task – that is to trace the path of Macedonia’s progress into a modern, technologically developed country. In cooperation with the business community, represented through the information technologies chambers, we work intensively on building information society. We work on realization of projects outlined in the Government work program, as well as other necessary projects appearing as a challenge due to the fast development of new technologies. Here, we should mention projects for one-stop-shop system introduction in various sectors, introduction of human resource management system in administration through the model of competence, modern method of public consultations through new technologies application, improving of functions of the unique national register of regulative as a part of the regulatory impact assessment, known in public as the RIA. Here, I would like to make clearer that entire regulatory reform including the RIA and the forth stage of the “Regulatory Guillotine”, referring to small and medium enterprises, fell within the jurisdiction of our Ministry at the beginning of this year.

 

- You come from the business sector. How do you see your contribution to the Ministry’s work and what are your major responsibilities as the Deputy Minister?

 

I respect and appreciate the commitment of the Premier and his team for attracting as many professionals as possible around them, first of all young experts, who have already distinguished themselves in the real sector by their work. It is the same with me, my professional portfolio was the reason why I was invited to join the team in the Ministry. I think that it is a good recipe of this government for successful policy creation and implementation in these dynamic times. There is almost no official who has not worked in the real or financial sector. They all understand what a business is and what are the challenges of people and finance management. My fifteen-year experience, most of it on managerial positions, as well as lessons learnt during implementation of complex IT projects in state institutions and major private companies, give me a special perspective and objectivity in wider perceiving possibilities and needs in this sector, but also in the business sector. On the other hand, it is about my logic as an engineer, freshness and new energy that I carry within myself for bringing in new spirit in “tailoring” administration to a modern pattern – quick, efficient, kind, motivated, cost-effective and most of all result oriented administration.

 

- What is the future of telecommunications in Macedonia? What is the level of this sector development and what is missing for it to be stronger as compared to other countries in the region and European countries?

 

One of the most famous American novelists in the sphere of fiction and a visionary of digital era, William Gibson said in 2003: “The future is already here – but it is not equally distributed”. Even today, this sentence gives the real situation with telecommunications in world frames. There is no equal distribution of telecommunication services between countries in the world. Within a country there is no equal coverage between towns or villages. The point is that not all citizens of a country have equal possibility for connecting to a certain telecommunication network and getting access to a public electronic communication service. A wide discussion is presently being led in the world whether the broadband Internet should become a part of a universal service, because the broadband Internet itself is one of the preconditions for massive use of electronic services, electronic banking, electronic business or electronic trade. However, the offer and level of development of software applications for these services realization, as well as the safety and security aspect in carrying out electronic transactions, deserve a great attention in planning electronic services. I am happy to say that Macedonia is a leader in telecommunication sphere in the region, particularly in respect of the broadband Internet, with the latest statistical data showing that we are quite close to the European average. Today in Macedonia you can connect your computer to a cable Internet, Internet through xDSL or optical fiber, wireless Internet through various wireless technologies, mobile Internet through 3G, and in the next several months the Agency of Electronic Communications will publish a tender for 4G. According to next year plans, necessary radio frequency range, so called “Digital Dividend” will provide a broadband Internet through mobile media at speed of 100Mbps and up. In respect of digital dividend, I would like to point out that analogue switch-off of broadcasters will benefit to electronic communication progress, as well as transition in digital mod of work and possibility for broadcasting high definition TV signals (HD-TV). Having in mind the present situation, and our ambitious but achievable plans with regard to telecommunication development, it is quite certain that the “Digital Agenda 2020”, a program for digital progress in EU member states by 2020 in the part of telecommunications, will become a reality in Macedonia too.

 

- Electronic trade in Macedonia is not in function the way it should be… There are examples of group purchase payment through Internet websites, but there are many things missing for providing massive trade via Internet. Why is that so? What is necessary to be done?

 

It is true that there is relatively small number, some eighty internet-shops are registered in Macedonia. This problem has several aspects – first, we are still building purchase culture via Internet. Some of the blames lie in major world companies for electronic money transfer, through which you can only buy products from the biggest electronic shops in the world. On several occasions we have received promises from PayPal that they would enable opening user accounts for Macedonian citizens and we expect it to happen soon. Another problem that both customers and sellers meet with is lack of trust in the entire process security, but it is a dilemma existing all over the world and not only in Macedonia. In respect of relatively small market for electronic trade of Macedonian products and services, the reason lies in insufficient technical knowledge of potential sellers about the process of creating and managing electronic shop. Therefore, our Ministry started a very ambitious project for opening electronic shops for about hundred new entrepreneurs, taking over responsibility for supporting personal electronic business based on presented business plans. It is expected that the number of electronic shops in Macedonia will be at least double by the end of next year.

 

- One of the recent competences of the Ministry of Information Society and Administration is the public administration reform. How far have reached reform activities and introduction of the competence management system?

 

One of the key priorities of our Ministry is the public administration reform. More precisely, the reform is a continual process for introducing rules, procedures and measures for improving performances of administration. There is almost no country in the world that has more or less reached an advanced stage in administration reform. What is expected from us as a candidate country for EU is to achieve the European average in public administration. In that respect, criteria for public administration that were valid in Bulgaria and Romania are different from ours. As the most developed European countries introduce new improvement measures, our criteria also become higher. Challenges of the 21st century, such as globalization, changes in nature of work with application of new technologies, the need for unification of organizational structures in administration, workforce coming from new generations, and also financial crises are factors that have impact on the need for making a framework for radical changes in traditional bureaucratic culture, i.e. making wider cultural, legal and structural reform. Introducing of a competence based system for human resource management should enable administration to outgrow in an efficient, responsible and transparent public administration as a central entity of democratic government.

 

The competence framework includes a workforce planning process, employment, development, assessment and promotion. The system gives employees stimulus for personal progress, as well as better understanding of what is necessary for more efficient task performance. Benefits for the managerial staff imply more transparent and appropriate criteria in cadre selection, and more objective assessment of employees through the 360-degree model (self-assessment of employees, assessment by subordinates, superiors and colleagues at the same level, or by service users), considering needs for training and progress, and more efficient human resource and task realization management.

 

It is not an idea for changing administration, or replacing old employees with new ones. On the contrary, the idea is to make the most of any of them, to arm them with necessary knowledge and skills and motivate them to use their full capacity for professional, efficient and transparent realization of their responsibilities. I think that motivation is one of the key factors for success of administration. I absolutely do not agree with the theses present over the last twenty years that we have a bad and unprofessional administration. If a man is constantly convinced to be bad, it is quite natural that after some time he will start believing it is true, and he will behave in that manner. Opposite to this, over the past six months spent in administration on a managerial position, I have met exclusively professional and dedicated people, who unselfishly strive to work. For these reasons, I am convinced that only positive approach in reforms, both of managerial staff and employees, will ensure goal achievement and creation of administration in which we are happy to work.