Messages and stats

SEEDIG 6 in numbers


Messages from SEEDIG 6


SEEDIG held its sixth annual meeting online, between 21 and 25 September. The week-long event featured vibrant and interactive discussions on some of the most pressing Internet and digital policy issues in South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area (SEE+), from digitalisation and the digital economy, to online privacy and cybercrime. 

These discussions are reflected in key messages, outlining main takeaways, possible goals, and proposals for future actions. The messages represent the main output of the meeting. Through wide distribution, at regional, European and international level, they are meant to help inform and influence decision-making processes within governmental entities, national parliaments, companies, and regional organisations.

We invite you to read these Messages and help us share them within and beyond the region.

Internet infrastructure

Open and decentralised Internet: governance challenges

  • Previously perceived as purely a technical issue, the Internet is acquiring more political dimensions and becoming increasingly regulated.
  • The pandemic brought new challenges to all aspects of life, including the Internet governance system, that need to be addressed. As this system changes, the community has to adapt while preserving respect for human rights and facilitating the realisation of the human potential.
  • We should change the Internet governance rhetoric from mainly focusing on threats to strategising on innovation and opportunities.
  • Civil society can and should put pressure on governments and big tech to stick to the principles on which the Internet was built (e.g. open, decentralised, borderless).
  • By addressing political and economic issues, we can find solutions to the challenges posed to the open and decentralised nature of the Internet.

Technological developments in SEE+

  • Enhanced cooperation among diverse stakeholders is necessary for developing and strengthening the Internet infrastructure throughout SEE+.
  • Several countries in SEE+ have failed to establish a well running Internet exchange point (IXP) due to political, rather than technical issues. Successful IXPs in the region list best practices as: cooperation and support from national and international partners; diversification of services; and vibrant Network Operator Groups (NOGs) in their countries.
  • Regulators should invest more effort in creating better and more just policies that consider the needs of all affected parties.
  • Information security in the SEE+ region should be improved by strengthening cooperation at the national and regional level, and by enhancing the technical education of law enforcement and the general public.
  • More policy discussions in technology and more technology discussions in policy is needed. Bridging the divide between policy and technology is important.

5G: hype soon to become reality?

  • Countries should, where possible, work collectively to accelerate the deployment of 5G infrastructure if they want to fully embrace digital transformation.
  • We should, in conjunction with the development of 5G networks, develop new approaches to cybersecurity, given the growing number of engaged actors with high interconnectedness but decentralised responsibility in the 5G ecosystem. There is a corresponding need for universal standards on the security of digital products and services, and more investments in the digital skills of citizens.
  • To develop smart communities and regions, we need to establish interoperability standards for both urban and rural areas.
  • We need to see network operators working with authorities and other stakeholders in demonstrating the value of 5G.
  • We have to better communicate the benefits of 5G networks, providing evidence-based explanations to change the perception from ‘5G being just another technology’ to ‘5G as an enabler of enhanced connectivity and rapid innovation’.


The interplay between digitalisation and depopulation in SEE+

  • Depopulation is a reality for SEE+. To address it, we should invest in human capital both within and among our countries. We should use the potential of technology to reconnect with the diaspora. We should devise governance systems capable of adapting to the new demographic realities and utilise these systems as incentive for the diaspora to come back.
  • Tech and digitalisation could improve trust between citizens and governments, and reverse the trend of depopulation by giving digital nomads and diaspora motives to move or come back to a certain country. They could also facilitate better collaboration between all urban actors (citizens, local administration, civil society and private sector) and help develop cities fit for humans.
  • Investments in digitalisation, connectivity and infrastructure should go hand in hand with investments in education – from cities to villages, from young to elderly people.
  • Youth has a huge role to play, as they will be the ones to shape future evidence-based policies.
  • Women’s empowerment should be another policy focus. Women in rural areas could benefit tremendously from education in tech, entrepreneurship, and skills training needed to merge tech and agriculture.
  • Digitalisation is crucial to reach people who were left behind tech progress, such as disabled people. It is an opportunity to allow everyone to make an impact and contribute to the technological development of their countries.

Digital economy: the path towards innovation and sustainable development

  • In order to create an enabling environment for the digital economy, we need to start by improving Internet infrastructure and connectivity, and bridging the digital divide in terms of access to infrastructure and digital skills for the entire society.
  • We then need to ensure dialogue with all actors in the digital economy ecosystem and develop high quality regulatory framework with builtin flexibility.
  • One of the most important aspects in building a strong digital economy is the legislative framework. Countries should have the same or similar regulations in order to allow cross-border cooperation. It is important to set regulations which foresee the possible evolution of digitalisation.
  • Public policies need to encourage innovation, as a key driving force to increase the competitiveness of individual businesses and national economies.
  • Cooperation between various stakeholders and across borders – including in the form of public-private partnerships – could help digital economies thrive.

Environmental sustainability through the lenses of digital development

  • Community support, private sector engagement, good regulations, and implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are vital to environmental sustainability.
  • Digital development has both positive and negative impacts on the environment. Given this, we need to explore how digitalisation can contribute to making economies greener and more sustainable.
  • Connecting green economy policies with smart economy policies is the new ‘must’. It is important to strive for development based on green technologies and new business models compliant with environmental criteria.
  • Changing consumption habits, business models, and people’s mindset is as vital as adopting green policies.
  • All aspects of sustainability need to be measured and analysed, while proper measurements in real time are needed to promptly assess and correct the impact of digitalisation on the environment.

Trust and security

Privacy and data protection in SEE+ during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Policymakers and developers should incorporate human rights by design when devising policies and digital solutions (in particular in tracking apps) to address COVID-19 challenges.
  • Trust is essential for the efficient use of tracking apps, where their necessity and proportionality have been established. Governments should provide adequate protection of personal data, consult individuals about digital solutions that interfere with their privacy, evaluate the efficiency of applied solutions, and report back to the individuals.
  • Governments and developers should conduct data protection and human rights impact assessments before launching tracking apps, and adhere to the highest possible privacy and data protection standards and best practices even if they are not part of the national legal system.
  • Building trustworthy communication between governments, developers, individuals and other stakeholders during the design stage and throughout the whole implementation cycle would eventually help to increase the level of adoption of tracking apps.

Cybercrime and the security of critical infrastructures

  • Attacks on critical infrastructures are difficult to mitigate, making prevention measures extremely important. Embedding security measures and controls, along with best practices, into the development of critical infrastructures becomes crucial.
  • There is a need to rethink the notion of critical infrastructure in the digital age and introduce proper protection mechanisms and cooperation models, including through public-private partnerships.
  • States should simplify and facilitate cross-border cooperation mechanisms between law enforcement agencies and the technical community (including CERTs) to access e-evidence as part of cybercrime investigations.
  • Incorporating threat intelligence (threat feeds) and continuous training on cybercrime investigations is key. Cybercrime investigative capacities in SEE+ countries need strengthening.
  • Cultivating a culture of compliance, encouraging all sectors to report cases of cybercrime and cyber-attacks, and raising more awareness on cybercrimes and cybersecurity are vital.

Advanced technologies

SEE+’s readiness for artificial intelligence

  • The private sector, regulatory bodies, national governments, and international organisations all agree on the need to develop a regulatory framework on artificial intelligence (AI). We should not lose this momentum.
  • Innovation and regulation are complementary in achieving public trust in digital technologies. A balance needs to be achieved between innovation that is a prerequisite for economic growth and regulation that would protect rights and freedoms.
  • Education and digital literacy need to be at the centre of AI policy-making. There is a consensus on the need to support digital citizenship as a critical dimension that fosters both AI deployment and respect of AI regulations.
  • Agreeing on a set of AI principles is necessary for all stakeholders – from training the tech developers that could develop and deploy AI applications in line with ethical principles, to decision makers that could use them in setting regional or national strategies.
  • While new technologies can bring important social benefits, it is important to understand that not every problem can be solved with technology, including AI.