Technology is a proven pillar of competitiveness and growth for governments worldwide. Countries that are able to harness the power of technology, especially new and emerging technologies like cloud computing, stand to increase productivity, foster innovation and realize cost savings, all whilst better engaging with and supporting their citizens. Some recent researches are showing that there is a clear correlation between governments’ use of digital technologies and higher growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The building blocks that have, in our experience, proven to be the foundation for successful digitalization of the public sector are national cloud strategy and cloud first policy, data classification framework, digital identity solution, centralized procurement function, use of government framework agreements, flexible and adaptive finance rules, collaborative approach amongst stakeholders, digital culture and technology skilling agenda. Countries that are best in leveraging digital services and data will be more agile and resilient. By further advancing digitization, the public sector can be better equipped to respond to the opportunities and uncertainties of the present and to build the new capabilities and solutions we need to tackle those of tomorrow,” said Panayiotis Ioannou, Regional Director for Public Sector at Multi-Country CEE, Microsoft*
A good example of taking a step further in the digitalization of the Public Sector in the Baltic region is the Estonian Government’s solution called Bürokratt. It is the world’s first public service AI-based virtual assistant. Estonia has a strong potential and all the prerequisites to become the digital center of Europe. Lithuanian railways company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (LTG) in its route to digitalization, implemented a cloud-first strategy, starting with Microsoft 365. By combining Power Apps with Microsoft Teams, the Latvian air company easily managed crew shifts via mobile devices, seamless payroll integration, and quick paperless post-flight report submissions. The company eliminated the need to print 1,000 print report pages a month and reduced the time for data input from two days to 15 minutes.
In the Adriatic region, a good example of Public Sector digitalization in Croatia is the City of Zagreb, where, as a result of the Microsoft Azure-based system, enrolling children in kindergartens became easier while budgeting and reporting became faster, simpler, and more transparent. Serbian state power company Elektroprivreda Srbije has improved and optimized the process of consumption forecasting, combining Microsoft Azure Machine Learning with Power Apps and Power BI. Thanks to real-time data analysis and automation, forecasting electricity consumption now takes 15 minutes instead of two hours, and the time saved is used for trading optimization. And in Slovenia, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, the Labor Inspectorate of the Republic of Slovenia (IRSD) needed to monitor the implementation of the Infectious Diseases Act (ZNB). Using an app based on Microsoft Power Apps and integrated with Microsoft Teams, IRSD modernized its digitalized processes, and its inspectors accomplished their daily tasks 30% faster, and from anywhere.
We are aware of the significance of education and its continuance, observing it as the future human capital. There are several significant projects when it comes to the educational system in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. For example, the Bulgarian schools have access to digital tools by enabling e-learning and at St. George International School and Preschool where students communicate with their teachers through Microsoft Teams channels, collaborate with their classmates in virtual classrooms, and receive and complete assignments. In Kazakhstan where winter temperatures often drop below -30°C, the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS), a prestigious K-12 school network for gifted children, had to find a way to teach students remotely. This school was one of the first NIS facilities to implement Microsoft 365, which has become the main platform for distance learning in their schools. In Hungary, the University of Pécs, using Microsoft AI Solutions and ONNX Runtime solutions, built and trained BERT, an open-source machine learning framework that enables text and speech processing in Hungarian and allows communication in the mother tongue with chat agents and other automated services.
And most recently, Ukraine’s Parliament took action to amend its data protection law to allow government data to move off existing on-premises servers and into the public cloud. This enabled it to ‘evacuate’ critical government data outside the country and into data centers across Europe. In Ukraine, digital transformation is widely perceived as the key to business resilience, while cybersecurity remains crucial.
“The global events of the last few years have brought unprecedented change to the physical and digital worlds. The threat of cybercrime is constantly growing – directed against individuals, companies, governance agencies, think tanks and non-government organizations. Security measures that were sufficient a few years ago are no longer enough. Cloud-powered technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and cloud services offer organizations unparalleled agility and efficiency, accelerate innovation, and make security comprehensive while driving growth and advancing sustainability commitments”, Panayiotis Ioannou concluded.
As recent Microsoft Digital Futures Index has shown, innovation is a product of a connected ecosystem: encompassing business, the digital sector, digital infrastructure, start-ups, talent and the public sector itself. Digitally advanced countries are proven to be greener, wealthier, more innovative, and more competitive. A government that is best able to leverage digital services and data will be more agile and resilient for the benefit of whole society.
*Multi-Country is a subsidiary within Central and Eastern Europe, including 25 countries: Armenia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.