RCC Initiates Regional Working Group on Digital Upskilling in the Western Balkans

30 April 2020

Knowledge of basic digital skills varies between 32 and 67% in the Western Balkans (Illustration: Shutterstock)

Knowledge of basic digital skills varies between 32 and 67% in the Western Balkans (Illustration: Shutterstock)

80% of Western Balkans citizens are active Internet users, but knowledge of basic digital skills varies between 32 and 67%

Sarajevo – In an attempt to address high digital skills gap present in the Western Balkans and especially obvious in the current situation of economies’ lockdown when many jobs have moved from onsite to online, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) initiated and hosted the first meeting of the regional Balkan Digital Skills Multi Stakeholder Working Group. 

The Western Balkan Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) for 2019 shows that the region legs behind the EU average in basic and advanced digital skills and share of the ICT specialist in the workforce. According to these data, around 80% of citizens in the Western Balkans are active Internet users, at least once a week, which equals the EU average. However, when it comes to basic digital skills, gaps between the EU and WB average leave space for an improvement: 56% of individuals in EU have basic digital skills, while in the region only Serbia exceeds this number with 67% of digitally skilled persons. North Macedonia holds a number of 34%, Kosovo* 32% and 50% of Montenegro citizens are equipped with fundamental computing knowledge.

Covid-19 underpinned the importance digital skills have in our daily life as well as business processes, while moving from offices to teleworking, greater social distancing and meeting, studying and teaching online as well as getting more and more services online. 

Therefore the regional meeting of relevant actors gathered around the idea to improve digital capabilities and skills-base necessary for the advancement of societies across the region. The newly established Working Group would be tasked to provide support to economies to develop digital skills strategies in a near future, as currently only Serbia out of six economies has a dedicated strategy on digital skills. Furthermore, the group would regularly review the needs and challenges in the implementation of these strategies. Besides this, strategic approach the meeting participants discussed models of mutual sharing of experiences, ideas and practices, aimed at bridging the digital gaps.  The working group is set to meet twice a year and next meeting will be held in the autumn of this year. 

The meeting was attended by representatives of Western Balkan governments, agencies, academia, and the  European Commission, as well as representatives from international organizations dealing with the digital skills: European Training Foundation (ETF); International Telecommunications Union (ITU); British Council; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe (ERI SEE); and  Regional School of Public Administration (ReSPA). 



* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.