(September 20th, 2012, 9:30 a.m., Sheraton Hotel, Sofia)
On 20th September 2012 a completely innovative and unique conference entitled “Digital Agenda for Europe – Reality or still a Challenge” was held in Sofia.
The idea was initiated by PanEuropa Bulgaria – the oldest non-governmental organization for United Europe, with the special support of the Bulgarian Government, the Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications and the European Commission. Mrs. Gergana Passy, The President of the organization, who was elected as the Digital Champion for Bulgaria, fully supported the initiative of the EC for providing access to fast Internet connection for every European citizen and the possibility for them to acquire and develop IT skills and competences.
The special guest at the event was the Vice-President of the EC Neelie Kroes, who inaugurated the conference and made the opening speech. During her trip to Bulgaria she met with the President Mr. Rosen Plevneliev, the Prime Minister Mr. Boyko Borissov and the Minister of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications Ivaylo Moskovski.
The EU Commissioner also took part in a live demonstration of the effectiveness of the implementation of panic buttons in cars. In case of an accident the panic button would start automatically and would send information with exact location of the accident (Е-call). The Deputy Minister of Interior Dimitar Georgiev showed in his presentation the most common causes of accidents on the road in Bulgaria and ways the traffic police is trying to prevent them. He also pointed out the effects from implementing e-call, which accounts for 15% less fatalities and 15% less injuries. Whereas, Andy Rooke showed more specifically how e-call works and how it will influence the road safety.
During the conference Cisco’s TelePresence technology was tested and used to show the role of technologies in the sphere of education. The technology was used to link a school in Sofia with a school in Karlovo and allowed them to join the conference with a high-definition video and audio conference call in real time. In this way the guests at the conference were able to watch part of Neelie Kroes’ visit at 137th School “Angel Kunchev” in Sofia, where she witnessed how interactive technologies have been used to stimulate and motivate students in their studies.
In the first panel, the honorable guest speakers discussed whether Europe could turn into a truly connected continent. The Romanian Minister of Communications and Information Society – Dan Nica took the audience through Romania’s success stories of implementing e-government and their plans for the future. He also talked in depth about PSC (Point of Single Contact), which is a public information system, operating as an interface between citizens and the business environment, offering to the service provider a single institutional interlocutor. Then Mechthild Rohen from the European Commission discussed “Connecting Europe Facility” project and its main focuses: to improve Europe’s transport, energy and digital service infrastructure.
The Digital Champion from Denmark – Lars Frelle-Petersen focused his presentation on digital reforms, conversion from printed to digital forms and letters, new digital welfare and closer digital collaboration in the public sector. Another important guest was Mr. Carlos Brazao – the leader of the Public Sector of Cisco for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. In his speech he outlined the importance of the new technologies and the broadband connection as the basic factor for the development of an economy based on innovations. Lastly from the first panel, Giancarlo Di Bernardo Head of IT Segment at Ericsson presented the Network society and the possibilities it opens.
In the panel on EU-Free Wi-Fi Paradise, the moderator Peter Statev, who is the chairman of ICT Cluster, presented recent changes within the accessibility to Wi-Fi in Bulgaria and the main free Wi-Fi business models. Then Dimitar Tankov showed Vivacom’s project for free Wi-Fi, its realization, and results in numbers.
The second panel of the day was aimed to promote e-education. The Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Science – Milena Damyanova showed recent ICT developments in Bulgarian schools. She introduced projects such as digital training for teachers and constructing a broadband digital Internet infrastructure. Dr. Tayfun Acarer talked about Turkey’s strategy towards e-government, high-speed broadband connectivity of schools, universities and scientific organizations, and emergency communications. Then Linda Liukas, who is the Digital Champion for Finland showed successful ways in which Finland has introduced Internet and coding into schools.
The Manager of Microsoft Bulgaria – George Randelov drew the attention of the audience towards opening new opportunities through introducing poor students to computers and Internet. He showed an example of a project in Seattle and introduced a model developed by Microsoft called Leadership and Investment for Transformation. The model suggests investing money into buying computers for children who are doing badly in school and calculates returns in investments. Lastly, George Brashnarov from Basscom concluded that IT technologies and Internet is definitely a potential area for investments.
Overall, the main priority of the conference was to promote the development of technologies and encourage their successful application in all social spheres. Among the discussed issues were e-government, high-speed broadband connection, and e-education. Another important initiative presented at the conference was providing universal access to Wi-Fi for Bulgarian citizens. Other discussed issues were how new technologies could radically change our lives, how they could increase the level of education in Bulgarian schools, and how the information technologies can turn into the most prospective sector in times of financial crisis. Lastly, the issue of what countries are doing to improve the application of information technologies for the development of the administrative infrastructure.
The regional conference, which is also the first working meeting of the Digital Champions, was chosen by the EC for one of the three “Going Local” initiatives of the European Economic and Social Committee for the year.
More information about the conference, the official program, presentations and photos can be found on the following website: www.digitalup.bg.