The growth of new industries, information and communication technologies is gaining in importance. Sustainable investments in their development boost innovation and entrepreneurship. The investment in infrastructure and innovation is one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the Agenda 2030 (SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure). One of the anticipated outcomes under SDG 9 is, among others, considerable increase in access to information and communication technologies (ICT) and investing efforts to ensure universal and cheap Internet access in the least developed countries by 2020. Namely, at the global level, more than 4 billion people still do not have Internet access, 90% live in developing countries. Internet access and ICT development are essential for equal access to information and knowledge required for sustainable development.
Specifically for Montenegro, information and communication infrastructure development is a precondition for reducing regional disparities and further development of the northern region. ICT is an important sector conducive to industrial development, economic growth and employment (SDG 8), and is closely linked with the education policy – development of information knowledge and skills (SDG 4), but also with building effective and transparent administration (SDG 16) citizen- and business-oriented.
The National Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2030 nationalises sustainable development goals. The key sub-measures directly and indirectly linked with ICT include:
188.8.131.52 Increase IT literacy of youth and adults SDG 4 (4.5).
184.108.40.206 (…)Encourage and develop new and flexible forms of unemployment of young people (…)such as social entrepreneurship, star-up, rural tourism, urban gardening, green jobs, creative industries, ICT services, online sale, etc., SDG 1.4, SDG 8 (8.b).
220.127.116.11 Ensure modern ICT infrastructure – quality broadband approach to Internet for all citizens and companies.
18.104.22.168 Improve the transparency of the governance using information and communication technologies, as well as the possibilities of electronic administration and use of the portal «e-government» in order to provide electronic information and electronic participation (…) SDG 16 (16.6, 16.7).
22.214.171.124 Further develop e-government portal as the central web window for access to the administration services at the national and local level, SDG 16 (16.6, 16.10), SDG 17 (17.14, 17.18, 17.19).
Given that one of the NSDS goals is to strengthen entrepreneurial and business infrastructure for the development of entrepreneurship and SMEs by 2030, one of the goals pursued by this policy will be to increase the number of SMEs providing predominantly information society services, within the framework of business zones, thus affirming the significance of ICT for GDP growth, as stated in the NSDS.
Montenegro opened Chapter 10 – Information society and media. The EU Acquis in this area aims to remove all obstacles to ensure effective functioning of the internal market of electronic-communication services and networks, but also promote competition and consumer protection.
Montenegro did not have any opening benchmarks for this chapter, while it has two closing benchmarks:
1) Montenegro brings its legislation in the line with the acquis as regards the provisions on the independence of the National Regulatory Authority for electronic communications as well as the acquis in the area of audiovisual media services.
2) Montenegro demonstrates that it will have sufficient administrative capacities for enforce the acquis in the fields of electronic communications, information society services and audiovisual media services, including as regards regulatory independence, by the time of accession.
The Acquis contains specific rules on electronic communication, information society services, and in particular, e-commerce, conditional access services and audiovisual services.
Apart from specific obligations in this chapter, digital integration of the Western Balkan countries in the process of their EU integration is one of 4 components of the Multiannual Action Plan for the Regional Economic Area at the Western Balkans – MAP REA, within the framework of the Berlin Process. In this regard, the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans was launched in June 2018 at the Sofia Summit and, among other things, it includes the abolishment of roaming prices within the region by the end of 2021.
Digital Agenda for Europe is one of seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy. The Digital Agenda aspired to sustainable growth through the single digital market based on high speed and ultra-high speed internet and interoperable applications with broadband access for all by 2013 and the access to greater internet speeds (30 Mbps and above) for all by 2020. One of the goals was to have at least 50% European households subscribed to internet connections above 100 Mbps.
High-speed internet is essential for innovation and online knowledge transfer and online distribution of goods and services. In addition, special attention is given to coverage of rural areas. In order to achieve the above goals, apart from the EU-level efforts, member states were supposed to develop their operational strategies, establish legal frameworks for coordinating public works to cut costs for network development, but also to promote the use of modern accessible services such as e-Government, e-Health, smart homes, digital skills, safety.
The Political Guidelines of the new EC focus also on the issues of digitisation – A Europe fit for the digital age. Europe will strive to grasp al benefits of digitisation, but mindful of safety and ethical issues, with setting the standards for new generation of technology that could be the world standards.
The key steps ahead concern the issue of investments in artificial intelligence with a well-concerted European approach to ethical issues arising from its. Secondly, the new Digital Services Act will upgrade the EU rules concerning liability and safety for digital platforms, services and products and complete the Digital Single Market. Finally, the political guidelines highlight that the public sector has a major role to play in digitalisation, and the EC itself will work more on the use of digital methods and digital diplomacy tools.
(World economic forum) ICT and e-GovernmentGlobal innovation index
The Global Innovation IndexSDG index
e.g. % of population with access to internetDigital Economy and Society Index (DESI)
For the EU member states only
The ICT development is recognised as a priority, both in the overarching, and in the sector-specific strategy papers covering diverse areas, including information society, good governance, health, education, science, industry and judiciary. These priorities are aligned with the EU goals set in the Digital Agenda 2020 and the Digital Single Market strategy.
Thus, Priority 4 of the Medium-term Government Work Programme – Successful infrastructure projects sets the goal of ensuring full coverage of Montenegrin territory with high-speed internet. This entails the development of the New Generation Access (NGA) network in all Montenegrin municipalities with 80% of households covered by the NGA by the end of 2020. As such, this is reflected in another overarching strategy document – the Development Directions for Montenegro by 2021 within the ICT policy and Smart Growth as the priority area.
ICT holds a prominent position also in the good governance policy, where goal 2 of the MGWP envisages better positioning of e-Government as a single point of access to e-services, setting up a single information system for data exchange among state authorities and state administration authorities, putting in place the assumptions for the One-Stop-Government, increasing the number of e-services. E-services are seen as a priority, reiterated in the 2018 Development Directions Progress Report which anticipates the increase in the number of e-services by 10% in 2021 (compared to 2020). Digitisation strives to improve public administration efficiency, increase the e-Democracy and customer satisfaction with e-services (key obligation 11.2. MGWP). This is very much in line with the intention of the new EC to lead by example in how digital tools are conducive to transparency and efficiency.
Given that digitisation is a cross-cutting issue, it is widely applied also in health. The MGWP area public health and well-being, notes it will continue working on further automation of health services, primarily the introduction of telemedicine and e-Health services for specific activities (cardiology, radiology, urgent medical assistance).
Thus, for instance, in pursuit off upgrading the healthcare quality (goal 31 MGWP), it envisages the introduction of e-medical card in 2018.
Digitised Montenegro is one of the cross-sectoral strategic directions set by the Smart Specialisation Strategy. It is in line with other sector-specific strategies: Industrial Policy by 2020, Information Society Development Strategy 2016-2020, Cyber Security Strategy 2018-202. This horizontal S3 priority is based on better infrastructure, digital economy and information security. As such, it provides information technology support to other S3 priority sectors – sustainable agriculture and food value chain, energy and sustainable environment. ICT improvement and application is significant for economic growth since it is conducive to developing trade and better use of capital.
When it comes to sector-specific strategies, the information society policy is elaborated primarily in the Information Society Development Strategy 2018-2020. It identifies key steps for achieving European standards in broadband services accessibility, cyber security, digital business, e-participation, e-government, e-health and e-education. However, as noted by the European Commission in the 2019 Montenegro Report, legislative and infrastructure bottlenecks impede the achievement of goals for broadband access (i.e. basic broadband access across the population in 2018, and high-speed broadband access of 30 Mbit/s and above by 2020). Low population density and difficult topography are additional challenges, since they increase costs of broadband access expansion, discouraging investments in less populated areas. In 2018, 72.2% of households and 99.2% companies (with 10 and more employees) had internet access, while in the same year only 8% SMEs had online sales. By way of comparison, the EU average stands at 17%. This is important because IT skills development and increased use of ICT may boost competitiveness of Montenegrin companies and facilitate their access to foreign markets.
As regards other areas covered by the Information Society Development Strategy, such as e-government, e-services and the e-Government portal, they are pursued through other sector-based documents, such as PAR Strategy 2016-2020 and the Open Government Partnership. As noted above, ICT is applied in the health sector through online appointments, e-prescriptions, e-reports (see Strategy for Developing Integrated Health Information System and e-Health 2018-2023), and in education (teacher portal, computer skills training for teachers, etc.).
Aware of the benefits brought about by ICT, the issue of digital exclusion should be borne in mind, which calls for the digitisation to be viewed from its socio-economic aspects to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban or depending on the level of income or education.