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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Minister Mark Boris Andrijanič: We will establish a development economic representation in Silicijeva valley this year

By: Sara Rančigaj / Nova24tv

“We will establish a development and economic representative office in Silicon Valley this year. Until the end of the year, we will have two people employed there who will take care of the promotion of Slovenian companies in the USA and the connection of the best American universities with Slovenia. With this representation, we will join the elite club of European countries,” Minister of Digital Transformation Mark Boris Andrijanič told Siol. He adds that this year they will also provide free access to advanced digital skills courses for primary school students, university students, and those over the age of 55. Depending on the needs of the labour market, the Ministry could also consider free retraining of workers, as UMAR reminds us.

Last summer, we got a new Minister without a portfolio in charge of digital transformation, Marko Boris Andrijanič. A week later, the government set up a digital transformation service, which was headed by Andrijanič. The task of the service is to coordinate, direct and promote key measures in the field of digitalisation of the state. Since more than half a year has passed since Andrijanič’s appointment, the Minister was invited to Siol for an interview to check what he has done during this time and what his plans are for the future.

One of the key recommendations of the Strategic Council for Digitisation is the introduction of a compulsory subject of computer science and informatics in primary and secondary schools. Unfortunately, we are already lagging far behind the most advanced European countries in this area. “I believe, however, that we can offer this independent subject in a renewed form to all primary and secondary school students in two to three years. We are currently preparing a resolution that will clearly set out a timetable with key steps towards this goal. We will follow the example of countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Estonia, where children learn the basics of programming at the age of seven,” explained Andrijanič.

According to him, this year they will provide primary school students with free access to advanced digital skills courses such as programming, robotics, artificial intelligence, and digital entrepreneurship. The condition for this is the adoption of the law on the promotion of digital inclusion, which is currently in government procedure. “Our goal is to become one of the most digitally inclusive European countries by the end of this decade with the help of this law and the significant resources at our disposal,” he added.

There is a shortage of computer science and informatics teachers

As there is a shortage of teachers in this area, the law will also provide teachers with free digital skills courses. “I am also pleased that we are already working intensively on refreshing the entire curriculum with the aim of integrating new technologies into various subjects. No change is easy, but it is crucial that there is no lack of goodwill among teachers,” explained the Minister, who added that the key challenge will be staff. Until the introduction of the new compulsory subject, they will have to hire quite a few new teachers of computer science and informatics. “Therefore, through scholarships and other measures, we will try to attract as many young people as possible to decide to study pedagogy in this field. I am glad that the state is already promoting education for a number of deficient professions, especially in the technical field.”

Digital skills today are the language spoken by the whole world. Slovenia is below the European average in this area, as only 55 percent of adults master at least basic digital skills. That is why they will launch the largest digital literacy programme in our history this year. “Apart from the youth programmes I have already talked about, the elderly, who suffer the most from digital exclusion, are also crucial for us. That is why we will provide free access to basic digital skills courses for people over the age of 55,” he added.

Digital vouchers will also be available to the elderly

They want to promote as much practical knowledge as possible, whether it is the use of online banking or online public administration services. Anyone attending a subsidised course will also be eligible for a 150 euros digital voucher to purchase a tablet or other computer equipment. By doing so, they want to ensure that they immediately put their new knowledge into practice. They will also be able to fund call centres under the said law, which will be available to the elderly to solve technical problems.

Special emphasis will be placed on girls, as Slovenia lacks not only engineers, but also female engineers. “Knowledge is our greatest asset, so it is right to discover and support just about every talent,” he stressed. In our opinion, before the planned approval of the law in February, the Ministry should also consider a possible national programme for retraining employees, as this could also gain competent staff in the field of programming, as we have a surplus of social science graduates who cannot be employed, and they could find their new opportunity in the field of programming.

To new staff also with the help of (re)training

The Office for Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (UMAR) also emphasises that the strengthening of knowledge and skills of the population should be achieved through accelerated education and (re)training for knowledge and skills of the future, including digital skills and the introduction of a cyclical perspective and promoting the involvement of adults in education and training systems to meet emerging challenges, including those whose jobs will be more exposed to automation and change.

The share of funds for smart transformation in cohesion policy 2021-2027 towards advanced countries such as Ireland and Finland should increase. Thus, depending on the strategic orientations of other countries, Slovenia would position itself around the average in terms of the intensity of investments in GDP for digitalisation and smart transformation.

In the field of investments in the general government sector, we should invest in smart and sustainable transformation, also with EU funds: because Slovenia, at least in smart transformation, invests less than other countries, it should increase these key investments to increase productivity. “The Recovery and Resilience Plan will not reduce the gap, also due to the lower intensity of EU aid, as Slovenia will invest on average 0.7 percentage points less in digitalisation than other Eastern and Southern European countries,” they said.

We will have our own office in Silicon Valley

One of the measures of the Strategic Council for Digitisation, which is being prepared together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the establishment of the Development and Economic Representation in Silicon Valley, which will be established later this year. Until the end of the year, there will be two employees who will take care of the promotion of Slovenian companies in the USA and the connection of the best American universities with Slovenia. “We also want to attract as many technological and other investments as possible to Slovenia. With this representation we will join the elite club of European countries, which also includes Austria and Denmark. The latter employs as many as 40 people there,” added Andrijanič.

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