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Serbia - Telecoms, IT, Electronics, Media & Internet
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Date: 03-09-2013. - By Ανταποκριτής του Business News As S&T Serbia is a consulting, integration and outsourcing services company providing innovative IT solutions, can you tell us more about the IT landscape in Serbia?

 Milan Dučić : As an IT company being present on Serbian market for almost two decades, we can say that IT in Serbia has evolved for sure, but there is still lot to be done. In the domain of digital government for example, Serbia moved even 30 places forward, according to UN report on Country level of e-government (complete list could be fond at: ). This was one of biggest progress among all countries, and as it is pointed out in this report, the key reason for it is implementation of e-Government portal (powered by S&T).  The growth rates of IT investments, as well as the growth rate of IT employment are above the world average - although absolute values are still quite low. The immaturity of our IT market is also reflected in relatively low percentage of IT services in  total IT spending (around 14% ), compared to hardware which took around two thirds.  What innovative IT solutions have you launched so far? And what is the one you believe is the most innovative?

 Milan Dučić :S&T conducted many interesting IT projects, delivering solutions on time and within planned budget. Most of them were eGovernment projects which at the time of launching represented a challenge for broad IT community. Even though new system for extending car registration validity was very technically difficult, the most innovative and therefore demanding was actually the implementation of eGovernment Portal eUprava which set foundations for providing electronic services for Serbian citizens. At that time not many countries had that kind of national portal and if we concentrate on the Balkans only Slovenia provided such service. Delivering the system which had to provide Serbian ministries and agencies with possibility to create electronic services on their own and enable citizens to submit electronic requests along with online payments of taxes was challenging for each team member especially having in mind short deadline. Recognition that the solution was innovative and developed according to the latest IT standards S&T Serbia received with European IT Excellence Award 2011. After that several projects for eUprava improvements followed along with introducing eGovernement Portal in Montenegro, System for enhancing monitoring and forecasting capabilities of Serbian National Employment Agency, eBanking system, QMS system and others. S&T Serbia also carried out successfully relatively interesting  projects for Serbian ministry of agriculture - such as marking cattle, which enabled complete record of each animal: age, vaccinations etc. which was prerequisite for selling them to EU. You recently announced that in Serbia, you have recorded 150 000 car registrations carried-out at one place in less than 10 months. Can you tell us more about how you were able to accomplish this?

 Milan Dučić : System for extending car registration validity introduced new kind of service for every car owner in Serbia. Before its launch procedure included going to authorized car service for inspection, insurance company, bank or post office to pay several taxes and at the end wait in long queues in police station in order to receive new registration sticker. New system greatly simplifies procedure saving both time and money by enabling car owners to complete every step at authorized car service. Besides this obvious advantage probably the most innovative aspects of this solution were introduction of one cumulative tax which greatly lowered possibilities for mistakes and brought much tighter and quicker control of paid taxes and also possibility to schedule an appointment at authorized car service on eUprava Portal. Car owners recognized these opportunities so it doesn't come as a surprise that the usage of the system reached such figures. This is a good example of a cost-efficient solution which proved to be highly beneficial both for citizens and government itself.  It should be a government practice to do follow up of projects – analyze usability/cost ratio and try not to make the same mistakes again – spend lot of money on projects that turned out to be political monuments. Political pressure to commit to short-term results during the tenure of each elected government is the trap that should be avoided in the interest of us all. Well – designed and economical projects are what we need now. Public money should be invested only in projects that guarantee better service for citizens and  cost reduction for the state (according to some studies, digital interactions cost 80% less than traditional ones). Although S&T Serbia is part of Austrian based international corporation S&T AG, is your work confined to Serbia or you also operate in other parts of this region?

 Milan Dučić : S&T Serbia is part of an international S&T company with operations in 19 countries - mostly Central and Eastern Europe including Adriatic region and German-speaking countries. Although S&T Serbia operates mostly in Serbia, some very interesting and important projects are being carried-out within a region,  such as implementation of an integrated Information system in Tax Administration of Republic of Srpska, e-Government project in Montenegro, SAP implementation in Macedonian Telecom, and others...We also had an exceptionally good cooperation with colleagues from Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, but also Croatia and Slovenia, even in times when it wasn't so common practice in our region. How do you see the future of the IT sector in Serbia?

 Milan Dučić : When speaking of the future of IT in Serbia I don't think that it differs so much from IT industry in the rest of Europe and other developed countries, at least not in technological aspect. Unfortunately the difference is budget since the amount of money spent on IT in comparison to the overall budget of institutions or revenue of firms is still far less than those in other more developed countries. Even so, this gives hope that things could only change for better and that Serbia will spend approximately same percentage of revenue in the future assuring more projects and more complex ones. Coming back to e-Government again - as some governments around the globe are moving in that direction – traditional, agency-centric model (in which each agency builds its own infrastructure) will probably be abandoned. ICT infrastructure becomes a  pooled resource available to both the public and private sector, its use reduces costs and minimizes asset duplication while increasing scalability and flexibility to support government activities. Also, similar IT applications will probably be consolidated across agencies, wherever possible, to reduce costs and enable standardization. Although some agency-specific infrastructure may remain, in decades to come majority of public infrastructure, applications and services will likely be shared, supplemented or even replaced with ones sourced from the private sector, which has proven to be more cost-effective and suited to support a successful digital strategy. Our readers are businesses, government officials and investors who operate in the region or are interested in doing business in the region, what advice do you have for them?

 Milan Dučić : As a continuation of previous answer, recommendation for government officials is to enter into a wide variety of strategic private-sector partnerships and also to make use of collaborative, open-source software development. As for investors, there are some improvements in doing business in Serbia, according to Economist Intelligence Unit's evaluation. Legislation and regulation on the state level has been improved in recent years, and Serbia’s tax regime is highly conductive to business. Corporate profit tax is the lowest in the region, while VAT, salary tax and social insurance contributions are among the most competitive in Central and Eastern Europe. Working in an IT industry, I will focus here not on advice, but reasons why one should invest in IT - either as a support or as a core- business. The information technologies are the base of every optimization - saving your time and resources. For taking part in global economy the IT industry requires significantly smaller resources than the other industries - not to mention that is much cheaper but more profitable. Serbia has experts which are capable of tackling the most complex requirements with gained experience on many successful projects. Furthermore our advantage in broader sense is that the price of our services is still less expensive, for the same or even higher quality, with prices at a level very close to India and China. This is the opportunity which has to be more exploited and that is something that Serbian government recognized and took steps to attract foreign investors. 

Misi Vallo
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