Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been identified as one of the priority areas with innovative potential during the mapping phase conducted within the framework of the Strategy for Smart Specialization (S3). The development of S3 is part of Albania's commitments within the EU accession negotiation process, specifically in Chapter 20 "Enterprises and Industrial Policies" and Chapter 25 "Science and Research." It is also part of the Western Balkans 2021-2024 Action Plan within the Berlin Process and the EU agenda for innovation in the Western Balkans 2021-2027.
In this context, the National S3 Team, under the special care of Deputy Prime Minister Mrs. Belinda Balluku, and with the support of the Union of Albanian Producers and EU4I, organized a national workshop for the ICT sector on May 19, 2023, following the methodology of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC).
Approximately seventy representatives from the Quadruple Helix (government, academia, business, civil society) participated in this event, sharing their experiences in the field of ICT and their views on intelligent development in ICT.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks from Mrs. Linda Pustina, Chair of the National S3 Team and Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, who emphasized the special attention that the government is dedicating to the S3 Strategy. Mrs. Florensa Haxhi, an expert from the National S3 Team, served as the workshop's moderator and explained the working methodology to the participants. Also part of the panel were Mrs. Kozeta Sevrani, a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Tirana and a member of the National S3 Team, Mrs. Elira Demiraj, Director of the General Directorate of Economic Development and Employment Policies at the Ministry of Finance and Economy, and Mrs. Elvana Zhezha, an expert and director of the UNIDO office in Albania.
Participants were divided into several tables, with each table having representatives from all four helixes. In the first part of the workshop, each table conducted a SWOT analysis of the sector, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then, the tables expressed their vision for the sector, goals, objectives, and the necessary resources to achieve the vision. Each group also identified the policies needed to implement the suggestions and objectives set.
In the second part of the workshop, each facilitator presented the findings of their table. Some of these findings were related to:
- A well-defined and dedicated institutional framework;
- Collaboration between academia, business, and government;
- Alignment with market needs and curriculum review, not only in higher education but also in pre-university and vocational education and training (VET), as well as lifelong education and short-term training courses;
- Regional collaboration, sharing of experiences, and addressing issues related to human capital and brain drain;
- The development of digital infrastructure;
- Capacity-building of the workforce;
- Specialization in ICT sub-sectors.
This workshop was conducted as part of the continuation of two roundtable discussions organized a few weeks earlier within the framework of the EDP meetings. The conclusions from this workshop will be analyzed, assessed, and included in the final EDP report, which will serve as a basis for drafting the S3 strategy.