The Slovenia Times

Preparing for the Future

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Interview: Bla┼ż Golob, director of the Centre for eGovernance Development for South East Europe


You work a lot in a region where people are probably even more suspicious of technological advancements than they are in the western part of the world. What sort of response are you getting to the idea of e-government and foresight in the countries of South East Europe?
The region of South East Europe and its inner circle of the Western Balkans is an emerging market that has very good potential. Nowadays strong scientific or business diasporas are more than willing to contribute to the progress of their country. There are many good examples of people returning from abroad successfully.
Positioning foresight - which could bring about long term priority setting of the countries, regions, cities or various sectors such as the energy sector - is not an easy task. Regional leaders that demonstrate achievements with concrete realised projects provide good examples that motivate neighbours. For example, one of the success factors behind the current Turkish achievements in the field of social and economic development is Vision 2023: Turkey's National Technology Foresight project, which was done in 2002. Looking 21 years ahead on where and how to build knowledge economy in Turkey that will bring about prosperity is a successful case.
Croatia also recently organised a challenging event on Croatian business 2031 with the relevant stakeholders, which is a good start. Foresight is a new way of governance for the region. Besides knowledge and good management of foresight process, the inclusion of relevant stakeholders is of great importance. It leads to success or failure of proper policy or strategy design.

Governments across the world and the region are going through severe cost cutting. What impact is this having on introducing e-government system in the region?
Every smart government should have better and cheaper services supported by ICT. Some countries have many electronic services but the usage of those services is only 10 percent. Nevertheless governments receive an invoice for ICT outsourcing support for all electronic services every month. This is nonsense. There is no prioritisation process done, foresight in this case is only a utopia. When taxpayers' money is freely available - as it was until recently -ICT companies are able to sell almost everything in the name of modernity or enabling better ranking in global eGovernment competitiveness indexes. Some more advanced regional economies like Slovenia were great places for such experiments. Now times are different.

You are one of the co-authors of the EU Enlargement futures studies. With the current pessimistic feeling about the Union amongst its members, what do your studies show as the future of the European Community?
The Foresight Study in 2001 about enlarged European Union showed that the EU could further progress and expand, and with that enable social and economic development for its citizens. We identified six main cross-cutting messages. The first one is that economic paradigm will change. The second main message is about regional disparities namely; urban metropolitan regions will be generators of prosperity, other peripheral regions need to connect and find cross-border methods of cooperation. The third message is related to the modernisation of the learning environment. The fourth driver is the re-conversion of science and technology base in order to build a knowledge economy. The fifth driver is societal challenge and a question of who is paying a societal bill, facing urgent reinforcement of solidarity mechanisms. Finally we already identified as early as 2001 a need for sustainable Europe - nowadays sustainability has an effect on most of the development strategies either in public or in private sector. Those who navigate short term actions with a clear long term vision that is inclusive, smart, sustainable and ethically acceptable will go safely throughout challenges. Germany in EU or Turkey in the region, and many business sectors that are global players, are good examples of this. I believe that the European Union and region of South East Europe has enough good navigators to enable further economic and social development.

In October this year, together with the Municipality of Ljubljana, CeGD is organising a conference with the focus on the future of the cities within the Danube region. What is the objective of the conference?
The objective of the conference, called Ljubljana Forum, is to connect, enable and encourage concrete cooperation among different stakeholders, which influence and develop projects for cities. For that purpose participants will share their views on governance, knowledge and economy of the cities and metropolitan areas.

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