Progress but also challenges in digital transformation

Still plenty of challenges in digitalisation. Photo: dpa/STA

Slovenia has still got quite a lot of work to do when it comes to digital transformation, including improving on the digital skills of the population, connectivity of the systems and digitalisation of healthcare. However, Emilija Stojmenova Duh, the minister for digital transformation, believes the country is making good progress.

Talking with the STA in an interview, the minister noted the large number of digital public services. She recently visited to Japan, a country seen as a model in digitisation, and finds that Slovenia is way ahead when it comes to digitising the public administration.

“They have the technology, the robots, so the hardware is there, but the processes are not in place, while we have many more digital services available,” she stressed.

Compared with other countries, Slovenia also has the advantage of relatively good broadband internet coverage, and the use of open data is a plus.

On the other hand, the country is lagging behind when it comes to digital skills of its population, and the number of women in the ICT sector has fallen significantly in recent years.

Another key challenge is the interoperability of data and services, which the minister plans to address next year.

There is a focus on the digitisation of the health system, where the lack of interoperability is causing problems such as the unintentional erasure of several thousand appointments. A new eHealth bill is in the pipeline.

The digital vouchers scheme, which contributed €150 to students and some elderly towards the purchase of computer equipment this year, is to be continued but it will be limited to disadvantaged groups only.

“Only those who really cannot afford the necessary computer equipment,” will benefit, the minister said, adding the value of the vouchers is likely to be slightly higher.

She also announced a computer fund that will allow disadvantaged groups, including children with special needs, the disabled, and the elderly, to rent computer equipment. Some funds have already been budgeted for the purchase of new equipment.

“Every year, the public administration decommissions a lot of equipment that is still usable, and instead of auctioning it or destroying it, we will clean it, refurbish it and then put it in the computer fund,” Stojmenova Duh said.

She also noted efforts to combat illegal content on the internet, including hate speech and the dissemination of false and misleading information for illegal purposes, where the ministry intends to work together with the civil society, researchers and other government departments.

Discussing online elections, Stojmenova Duh said it would make sense to try an e-referendum first during this government term, and perhaps e-elections in the next term.

The Office for Digital Transformation will be upgraded to a proper ministry under the new government act endorsed in the 27 November referendum.

“With the new ministry, we will become the horizontal body that will oversee the digital transformation of the whole country, and then we can start talking about interoperability, because it will all come from a single point,” Stojmenova Duh says.