Nebojša Djurdjević, CEO Digital Serbia Initiative: ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES THAT CHANGE OUR LIVES

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Our projects are mainly strategic and as such it takes several years for them to be fully realized. However, I am proud to say that over this period we have already achieved some great improvements for the whole society. In education, we can now say that every fifth grader is learning to code as part of mandatory education – this fact is a real game-changer and puts Serbia high on the European map.

How did digital technologies change and expedite business operations globally, including Serbia?

New business models put to use assets and resources that were unutilized before – think all the cars and apartments that are now used through Uber and Airbnb. The acceleration is huge. Product life cycle is significantly reduced for both physical and digital products thanks to digital technologies such as simulation and 3D printing. New products and services are continuously introduced, in all areas, with advanced technologies that change the way we work and live. Solutions based on artificial intelligence and big data are spreading across traditional sectors pushing the boundaries of what is possible – AgriTech, FinTech, HealthTech, Robotics, Automotive, etc.

What is the current situation like with technological progress in Serbia and the region? Do we lag behind other European countries, and if do, how much?

We have great examples of companies in Serbia that are at the leading edge of global technological development. That applies to both startup and larger companies. Startup companies are the major contributor to development of innovative solutions so they are strategically important. Number of startup companies relative to the population is low compared to developed startup ecosystems in Europe. This is something that needs to be addressed through focused programs by private and public sectors. I believe Digital Serbia Initiative will be an important player in this field.

What are the plans of the Digital Serbia Initiative in terms of digital transformation of Serbia?

One of our main focus areas is development of the startup ecosystem. We will start with a comprehensive assessment of the startup ecosystem to set the baseline and identify the gaps and areas of strengths. Our plans include programs to (a) improve the knowledge in the areas of entrepreneurship, idea generation, product management, as well as sales and marketing, (b) strengthen the early stage funding options for startup companies, and (c) drive changes in the legal/regulatory framework to improve the efficiency and further development of digital economy.

What are the biggest challenges for our country regarding the fourth industrial revolution?

The Fourth industrial revolution brings cognitive technologies and artificial intelligence to machines making their own decisions. In some cases, these decisions introduce major legal and even moral questions. For example, autonomous driving cars will inevitably be faced with moral dilemmas, where the machine will need to choose the lesser of two evils, such as injuring two passengers or five pedestrians in a situation where no third option is available. Ethical and legal issues are the biggest challenges globally, and for our country, too.

Could you tell us something about the projects that you have implemented in the previous period, which were significant for economic growth and sustainable business?

The initiative exists only for a year and a half. Our projects are mainly strategic and as such it takes several years for them to be fully realized. However, I am proud to say that over this period we have already achieved some great improvements for the whole society. In education, we can now say that every fifth grader is learning to code as part of mandatory education – this fact is a real game-changer and puts Serbia high on the European map. Also, we have thousands of secondary school students in specialized IT education that will help us transform Serbia into a digital society. We have also initiated very wide public dialogue in the society on what kind of education we need to prepare our children for the jobs that don’t even exist today.

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