Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been identified as one of the priority areas with innovative potential during the mapping phase of the development of the Strategy for Smart Specialization (S3). The development of S3 is part of Albania's obligations regarding the negotiation process for EU membership, specifically Chapter 20 "Enterprises and Industrial Policies" and Chapter 25 "Science and Research," as well as part of the Western Balkans 2021-2024 Action Plan within the Berlin Process. It is also a part of the EU's innovation agenda for the Western Balkans 2021-2027.
In this context, the National S3 Team, under the special guidance of Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Belinda Balluku, with the support of the Union of Albanian Producers and the Municipality of Tirana, organized a roundtable for the ICT - Innovation sector on April 20, 2023, at the TUMO Center, following the methodology of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC).
Approximately 30 representatives from various sectors (government, academia, business, civil society) participated in this event. Participants made valuable contributions by highlighting the sector's needs and possible solutions for intelligent development in ICT.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks from Ms. Linda Pustina, Chair of the National S3 Team, advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, and Ms. Florensa Haxhi, moderator and expert of the National S3 Team for the development of the Strategy for Smart Specialization, who presented the project framework, its importance, and the role of the EDP process in the Republic of Albania.
The first part of the meeting focused on the role of central and local governance in prioritizing and developing the ICT and innovation sector in the Republic of Albania. The discussion was led by two panel facilitators: Ms. Irena Malolli, Director of Policies and Development Strategies in Telecommunications and Posts, Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, and Mr. Reald Keta, Legal Advisor to the Minister of State for Entrepreneurship Protection. In a participatory form, this session addressed challenges, opportunities, perspectives, and provided suggestions and recommendations related to the strategic measures needed to fully exploit the potential of the ICT sector and the role of policymaking in its development.
The second part of the meeting focused on business development through innovation, competitiveness, and the role of ICT. Mr. Arben Shkodra, Secretary-General of the Union of Albanian Producers, facilitated the panel discussion. In this section, the inclusion of innovative technologies in the business sector, challenges, opportunities to add value to the economy, competitiveness, and the role of the ICT sector in economic development in the country were examined.
The role of education and training in the ICT and innovation sector, challenges, and the path toward developing human capital in the context of Smart Specialization in the ICT sector were the themes of the third part of the meeting. The panel was facilitated by Ms. Kozeta Sevrani, a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Tirana and a member of the National S3 Team. This session focused on the role of human capital in the ICT sector, academic offerings, VET (Vocational Education and Training), and lifelong learning, scientific research, brain drain, as well as the sector's needs and challenges to remain competitive in the region and beyond.
The discussions held during this meeting will serve as the basis for a national workshop in the field of ICT.