The Analytical Center joined forces with the World Bank and the Institute of the Information Society to hold a round-table entitled "Getting Digital Dividends", during which a report was presented under the title of "Getting Digital Dividends: Effective Use of the Internet for Development in Europe and Central Asia."
A key speaker at the event was Hans Timmer, the World Bank's chief economist for Europe and Central Asia. The expert talked about the effective use of the Internet as a regional development tool. "In Europe and Central Asia the Internet is easy to access; the prices are sufficiently low while the speeds are pretty fast. This is helping promote its mass penetration, while driving competition between Internet service providers," Mr. Timmer said. And yet, the region is lagging behind in terms of commercial use of Internet technologies. First of all, this is a result of the domineering role that the state is playing in the market, the analyst believes. "Currently, a new policy is needed in Europe and Central Asia for the introduction of digital technologies as well as a complete transformation of the economy," Mr. Timmer said. "It is also important to focus on exporting services such as education and health care. This is very relevant."
The spread and adoption of new technologies is inevitable, so measures to prevent change are futile; they can only delay the inevitable, the World Bank expert is sure. "Strategic priorities depend on the development level of digital technologies. Countries where the digital technologies market is just emerging should promote competition in the telecommunications market by improving the level of basic education and incentivizing competition and entrepreneurship," the expert said. "In the meantime, countries where the market is already developing need to start working on nation-wide plans to ensure everyone has broadband access by reforming the labor market and pursuing trans-border integration." Countries whose markets are undergoing a transformation need to ensure cyber security and protection of personal data.
Mr. Timmer noted that cyber security issues are gaining more and more relevance all over the world today. "For example, in Europe and Central Asia people are not using credit cards very much. One reason for that is that they do not trust this service," the specialist noted. Because of it, the region lacks breakthrough technologies in the banking sector and in money transfers. The financial sector plays an important role in development and, according to Mr. Timmer, this field should not be ignored.
Participants in the discussion noted that Europe and Central Asia still remain cautious about the rise of digital technologies and are largely watching their development without taking an active part in it, but that needs to change, if the new opportunities afforded by the digital revolution are to be taken advantage of, the specialists are sure.