Newsletter 15/2011 - In focus

ICT TO BECOME A POWERFUL CATALYST OF REFORMS IN THE REGION, by Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nera Nazecic, Programme Analyst, UNDP

The experience gained from attempts to accelerate growth in a number of European Union (EU) Member States, like Estonia, is continually pushing information and communication technologies (ICT) at the centre of the EU’s policies.

Having positioned ICTs at the core of its priorities since the 2001 Lisbon agenda, a quarter of European Union’s Gross Domestic Product (EU GDP) growth and 40% of productivity growth is accounted for by the investments in ICTs[1]. However, the effects of the global financial and economic crisis have set Europe back, halted growth and increased unemployment by 7 million people[2]. The effects on our region are going to be long-lasting increasing poverty and unemployment and undoing many years of our joint development work.

It becomes evident that the only way to bring on security and prosperity of the region is to ensure fresh investment in new sustainable forms of growth, improve educational systems, create jobs, spark entrepreneurship, remove barriers to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which constitute 99% of all our businesses, and provide them with an enabling environment for growth.

We should stop looking at Governments to create jobs. Rather, Government should seek to create an enabling environment for innovation and jobs through less red tape and sound smart investments. Our entire region needs deep structural reforms in labor markets, as well as that of economic and education policies. We need to invest more in young talent and remove obstacles that hinder our brands, products, content, and innovation from reaching and competing in the global markets. The situation in the region also calls for the build-up of an integrated regional infrastructure, as fast internet is the lifeblood of future business. Imagine what a powerful competitiveness tool for our entrepreneurs (and governments) would be an ability to share large volumes of information in a blink of an eye (or 100 megabits per second).

The role of ICT as a mighty catalyst of the above reforms is becoming more and more evident. In particular, the role of ICT as an enabler of a more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable region following the most severe economic crises in decades is becoming more and more evident. Fast internet is also a prerequisite for the access of less-developed communities to core economic activities and public services. For many people at risk of exclusion due to physical and cognitive disabilities, ICT offers essential tools for removing barriers to social and economic integration. If we look at the findings of the latest Global Information Technology Report[3], we can see that ICT had a major impact not only on the growth of wealth but also on its distribution. In 2010, it allowed an increasing share of individuals and organizations to play an active role in the economic, political and social life. Such a trend towards distributed intelligence and wider participation will continue and take on new forms.

There are many examples to illustrate this, both inside and outside the region. Some will be presented in a study entitled Best Practice Compendium, which is being prepared by Electronic South Easter Europe (eSEE) Secretariat in cooperation with the e-Leaders for the upcoming eSEE Ministerial Conference, to showcase examples of smart growth as well as innovative use of ICTs in raising productivity and improving interaction between governments, citizens and businesses.

The Regional Cooperation Council eSEE Initiative is indeed an appropriate response of South East Europe to the global call. The findings of our two recent studies[4] show that by steadily investing human and financial resources towards implementation of the e-SEE Agenda+, even in economically and politically challenging times, eSEE Initiative member governments are conveying a clear message that building resilience via cross-border cooperation is the proper path for the region to realize its potential in the global competitive landscape. This commitment and a sense of regional ownership demonstrate a shared understanding that quick profit and easy growth is no longer possible in today's global economy.

It is increasingly evident[5] that the rest of the world is working hard for growth. People in Sweden, Singapore, Denmark, India and China do not take anything for granted. Instead they are improving, remodeling, modernizing, innovating and pushing their limits. So should we. If we are to believe in projections[6] that emerging markets will dominate the Internet economy by 2025, then we are indeed very clear about the task ahead of us.

 Yuri Afanasiev assumed duties as both UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in February 2010. Prior to his current position, Afanasiev served as Resident Representative in UNDP Croatia.  He holds an MA in International Economics and Finance from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

[1] ICT and Economic Growth, Evidence from OECD Countries, Industries and Firms


[3] The Global Information Technology Report 2010–2011 © 2011 World Economic Forum

[4] “CT and e-Governance Sector Status Report for SEE 2010, Walking the Extra Mile for the Digital Agenda: e-Leadership Efforts in South East Europe 2010.

[5] The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 © 2010 World Economic Forum

[6] Cisco & Global Business Network 2010.


Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo:

Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo: