Podcast 🎧 & blog: Let’s sum up the year 2022!
Another year has passed. Another year in which e-Governance Academy has been involved in digital transformation projects worldwide. Most might have expected calmer waters after exiting the emergency situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, with 2022 came a number of events that saw our experts at the centre of the international scene.
Executive Director Hannes Astok joins us to paint a picture of what year 2022 has been for our think tank, and what topics defined it in the digital sphere.
What year has 2022 been for eGA?
Tonga, in the beginning of the year. Then Ukraine, Western Balkans. Resilience has been – once again – definitely one of the keywords of 2022. Not anymore related to adapting and keeping societies open during the pandemic, but rather to a series of emergencies unfolding essentially from the get-go.
“I think there is always a lot of stress in work, whatever you do. But there are two kinds of stress – good, so to say, and worse. The pandemic, the volcano eruption in Tonga, were unpredictable events that still, though, could be handled. You know why something is happening, and that one day it shall cool down,” Astok begins with.
“But was scenarios are tough to deal with, especially if your team is a country physically under attack. I’d say this year has been the hardest in our history so far, but it also brought a lot of new opportunities. So I believe that now, at the end, we are still stronger than at the beginning,” Astok says.
And by all means, after seeing the scale of our own and EU’s support to a digital Ukraine: €40 mln through the continent’s political institutions, and eGA’s more humble internal charity campaign to deliver laptops to Ukrainian teachers in Chernihiv.
Ukraine, Tonga – the key role of digital capabilities
One point in common with the recent pandemic experience, however, is the tight connection between resilience and digital capabilities. It comes only partly as a surprise. Almost regardless of the cause of emergency, investing in improving digital capacity is a key asset at governments’ disposal to tackle tough situations.
“The brutal, unjustified aggression of Russia to Ukraine still affects us in many ways. We have a team of more than 20 people in Ukraine, working very hard also during the war. But this has shown us that the resilience of any country, today, is very much dependent on its digital capabilities.”
Take the case of Ukraine. “If you have built proper digital services for the citizens, these can keep working almost uninterruptedly even during wartime.” Or look at Tonga. “After the volcanic eruption, the whole main island was covered in ashes. But after basic cleaning works were done, with electricity and communication restored, the government was able to keep operating thanks to its digital systems,” Astok explains.
Present and future, between cybersecurity and mobile services
Cybersecurity has been another hot topic of the year, as it is a growing concern globally. “From this point of view, this year has been pretty tough for the Western Balkans. Many countries we work with have been targeted by very serious cyber attacks. There, we helped review the existing cybersecurity situation, and now are getting into the development of rapid response capacities,” Astok highlights.
Inevitably, this creates demand for expertise on building cybersecurity strategies and capacity that are sustainable – a noticeable trend in the requests for e-Governance Academy’s own support work and consulting on the matter.
“At the same time, though, governments globally are also seeking to make processes more efficient, and data exchange more reliable and secure. While citizens, instead, put forward their expectations for consuming government services on their mobiles.”
“It signals that all around the world, both in older democracies and developing countries, people are eager to seegovernments as applications on their smartphones,” Astok concludes.