Bridging digital divide to be Stojmenova Duh’s priority as minister

Ljubljana – Emilija Stojmenova Duh, the candidate for minister of digital transformation, has pledged to build on what has been done well in the field in the past. Her priorities would be to narrow the digital divide and pave the way for society’s effective digital transformation, she told the relevant parliamentary committee before getting its nod Saturday.

“We will carefully review the work done so far, the work of the Strategic Council, the work of the individual departments. We will look at what has been done, what actions have been taken, what needs to be completed and what needs to be done from scratch,” she told the Committee on Home Affairs, Public Administration and Local Government, which cleared her presentation by nine votes to four.

Her ambition is to digitally train the population to bridge the digital gap geographically and in terms of gender, age and social status. Public services too would be digitalised and the rule applied that people should be asked but once to provide their data.

The candidate also underscored the need to adapt to fast changes. “We will follow the changes and stimulate them,” she said, promising support for digital transformation of businesses and steps to ensure a suitable level of online privacy and security.

Asked by committee members to assess the work of the outgoing Minister Mark Boris Andrijanič, she said it was hard for her to say as she had been unable to access online concrete information on the measures taken.

Andrijanič has recently taken part in the Davos summit and in November last year Slovenia hosted the first conference of the Three Seas initiative on digital transformation.

Stojemenova Duh said she was active in the international environment herself and supported such cooperation and believed it would continue in the future. As to the Three Seas initiative she said it was also a matter of foreign policy and of agreement.

She does not think the outgoing government’s goal for Slovenia to make it among the top five countries in the Digital Economy and Society Index by 2026 is realistic.

“I wouldn’t bother about whether we are top five or top seven. I believe what matters is to make sure that every man and woman in Slovenia, no matter where they live, has access to the internet, has public services they can use and has the skills to use those services,” she said.

Having headed the Digital Innovation Hub in the past, she knows the challenges faced by the local communities. She believes they should be supported by expertise and financial means where she said various sources could be tapped into to improve digital development of municipalities and rural areas, including the resilience and recovery plan.

She announced the plan to popularise e-services provided by the state and introduce electronic signatures everywhere. The government would to promote citizens’ e-participation and explore the possibility of holding e-referenda and e-elections.

In healthcare digital tools would be introduced to upgrade the existing systems and make them interoperable.

She also promised steps to deal with online hate speech and shared the concern of some committee members of the dangers of screen addiction among the youth.

She believes the young should be encouraged to work with algorithms and solve problems, and does not support introducing computer science as a mandatory subject in primary school, but believes it should be mandatory in some secondary school programmes. She believes curricula should be updated to include digital literacy content into existing subjects or classes.