Digitalisation in the age of pandemic: doing development differently

June 11, 2020

By Marta K. Gazideda, Governance and Peacebuilding Portfolio Manager/Deputy Programme Coordinator

High internet penetration, high level of mobile network coverage, and high level of ownership of mobile phones provides a fertile ground for innovation and digitalisation in society. The pandemic brought to the forefront the agility of societies and governing institutions to adapt to an unprecedented crisis, it also exposed weaknesses in the system as well as individual resistance to adapt to new ways of working. Technology is but a tool which requires a change in the soft capacities to accept it and use it productively.

We saw valiant efforts from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to continue the education of children through on-line and TV lessons and a gradual shift to virtual meetings at central level. At the same time, the constraints in the public sector were also visible in terms of infrastructure and individual capacities. On the other hand, the private sector raised to the challenge - apps for personal health monitoring were developed, for ordering and purchasing, for donating to those less resilient, for producing face shields. This was truly a case of identifying local solutions to a global problem.

UNDP Kosovo has actively engaged to introduce new, better, ways of doing development in cooperation with partners and beneficiaries. In response to the pandemic, UNDP is directly supporting institutional needs for improved communication, information exchange, coordination and practical interventions.

Our focus during these three months has been on identifying digital solutions which will serve institutions in the long run. They include means to communicate virtually and to share data and information in the shortest possible time, to monitor and model the spread of the pandemic, and strengthen existing IT infrastructure.

The principle of leave no one behind is strongly visible in UNDP’s other initiative  which range from enabling job seekers to apply for active labour market measures on-line, thus, limiting physical proximity and COVID-19 exposure and spread, to addressing the needs for confidential chats with health professionals, providing timely and accurate information to the population in their native languages, specialized, virtual trainings for Kosovo Police, to ensuring that courts provide accurate translation for defendants and plaintiffs, thus ensuring the implementation of the law on languages.

In times of crisis social cohesion is also affected greatly and “fault lines” are more visible. In cooperation with UNTIL (UN Technology & Innovation Lab) UNDP is looking to develop digital solution to support inter-ethnic dialogue and cooperation among youth. Direct communication with youth is also very important in times of uncertainty. UNDP is reaching out to youth and minorities with timely information and messaging which is now available in Turkish and Romani languages, in addition to Albanian and Serbian.

Virtual training was also used for Kosovo Police participants on investigations for Illicit Arms Trafficking (IAT), the legal framework on SALW, and local and international cooperation through the Firearms Focal Point and International Law Enforcement Cooperation Unit.

Earlier developed e-tools which support anti-corruption efforts have now come to the forefront and reiterate UNDP’s role in governance solutions. A range of e-tools , ranging from case management system of preliminary investigations to the e-tool for direct access for the Office of the Chief Prosecutor to Financial and Criminal Records within the police, Tax Administration, Customs Administration, and Cadastre allows for faster, more accurate, collection and analysis of data including policy decisions and remove the necessity of holding large meetings with over 50 institutional representatives reporting progress.

While none of us knows what the future truly holds, we are witnesses to a changing world in which technology, innovation, and humanity must converge.