Rethinking digital transformation opportunities
UNDP acknowledges the significance of digital transformation for societies worldwide, including in Moldova, which has been proven once more by the COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the pandemic has been more successful in countries with advanced digital infrastructure, such as digital payment and identification systems, compared to those without.
Although Moldova has a developed digital infrastructure (the country’s territory coverage with 4G is 98%), well-placed e-Governance services and an ICT sector with accelerated development, the country needs to systemically rethink digital transformation opportunities and focus on a whole-of-society systemic transformation. Moldova must close the digital divide between rural and urban areas, people of different ages and genders and improve/harmonize legislative framework to be in line with international standards.
A whole-of-society approach at the epicentre of digital transformation
UNDP supported the Government of the Republic of Moldova in developing a comprehensive National 2023-2030 Digital Transformation Strategy. It will implement a whole-of-society approach to ensuring the engagement of local leaders, companies, and digital innovators, developing a thriving local digital ecosystem built on inclusivity, sustainability, accountability, and human rights.
Similarly, UNDP is constantly adapting to keep abreast of the ever-evolving digital reality, ensuring that it remains a global leader both internally and as an external partner; an organization equipped with the knowledge and tools to support our partners at this time of rapid change. This is all reflected in UNDP’s Digital Strategy 2022-2025.
Closing the digital divide
Most of Moldovan population have access to the internet and digital devices. But the quality and affordability of access varies between socio-economic groups, rural-urban populations, and genders. About 71% of the richest Moldovan households have computers, compared to only 35% of the poorest households. And although Moldova has one of the lowest average costs of 1GB of mobile data, the lack of broadband networks and last-mile connectivity impede rural populations from fully participating in digital activities.
To tackle this, UNDP Moldova has been equipping Moldovan schools all across the country (including Găgăuzian and Transnistrian regions) with modern technology such as desk computers, laptops, smartboards, projectors, interactive boards, portable STEEAM (science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, arts, and maths) laboratory devices and tablets. This enables students (and teachers, and school managers) to futureproof themselves as early as possible in their lives and careers. To help achieve this goal, UNDP undertakes activities on its own and collaborates with “Tekwill in Every School” Programme, Future Classroom, and other trailblazers in this field in Moldova.
Additionally, since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, UNDP also creates opportunities for refugee children and women to familiarize themselves with STEEAM disciplines and acquire tech skills.
From e-Governance to digital government
National policies and regulatory framework for new technologies are often implemented in a reactive manner. In an era when digital transformation is accelerating as a response to different crises, governments must take proactive action to be at the forefront of change. Often, they must do so despite imperfect digital infrastructures and modest skill capacities within authorities.
While governments must increase their use of digital technology, creating opportunities to deliver more effective services to both general and marginalized populations, they also need to look beyond conventional uses intended to digitize existing services, products, and processes. They must add new value, promote innovation and reimagine development for the digital age.
Data for policy
Advancing digital transformation in Moldova results in a great deal of data, which the Moldovan Government can leverage to have better decision-making and governance. The experience of providing on-bill compensation to reduce the energy vulnerability of the Moldovan public, which UNDP Moldova supported, proved a successful first major example of how data can be used to automate government processes.
Following this experience, UNDP is working to create a Data Governance Framework to provide standards and best practices on how data must be collected, processed, verified, and validated. It will ensure that data collected is accurate, trustworthy, safe, secure and compatible for exchange on a national and cross-border level, especially in the fields of health, agriculture, social security, and justice.
Digital literacy for a digital society
To help all people thrive in a digital society, regardless of their gender, age, level of education and income, UNDP is undertaking efforts to ensure that all people in Moldova are digitally literate. They must have at least basic digital skills to use electronic public services and make the most of an ever-changing job market.
UNDP Moldova is also modernizing public services and the digital infrastructure behind them so they are up to current standards. Since 2021, UNDP has supported the development of two new digital solutions as key enablers of digital transformation of public services alongside other governmental e-products. These include an advanced digital signature/identity application (MobiSign) and the digital wallet (MWallet). We expect that, thanks to these digital solutions, at least 70% of the Moldovan public will be active users of digital public services.
UNDP has supported the modernization of digital public infrastructure and introduced or improved internal information systems and processes in various public sectors. These range from transparent democratic participation and decision making (e-Parliament, Elections Information System), to efficient and merit-based management of human capital in the public sector (e-recruiting system for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, e-admission and e-testing of future judges and prosecutors at the National Institute of Justice) or health services delivery (digital platform for video supported treatment of people on opioid substitution treatment, informational system for the management of health procurement needs). Furthermore, UNDP is currently assisting the digital transformation efforts of forensic institutions, police services and the legal aid system by introducing e-case management systems and enabling the digital delivery of core functions by rule-of-law institutions.
Women in STEEAM
The digital divide is also affecting girls and women. Because demand for workers in STEEAM occupations is only expected to grow in the future, governments and communities cannot afford to deny half of humanity the opportunity to succeed in this high-growth sector. Globally, between 40 million and 160 million women will need to change occupations by 2030 into more skilled roles requiring complex digital, cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Moldova has 18 higher educational institutions that offer IT-related studies. But only 4.6% of girls studying in higher education choose STEEAM careers and only 31% of jobs in the ICT sector are occupied by women. These women also earn 33% less than men on average.
UNDP Moldova is supporting women’s and girls’ integration in the field of science and technology, particularly promoting STEEAM-based education. UNDP’s initiatives are implemented with the direct involvement of academia, schools, civil society organisations, media and parents to increase students’ interest in STEEAM education. This has resulted in, for example, about 50% female participation in the “Tekwill in Every School” Programme.
UNDP Moldova is also supporting women entrepreneurs, providing grant opportunities for women to establish and grow their businesses, including in ICT. Successful examples include women working in agri-tech (digitalization of agriculture) and cybersecurity.
Private sector engagement
UNDP Moldova recognizes the role of the private sector in strengthening e-Governance and transitioning to a digital government—one of the six objectives laid out in the National Strategy for Digital Transformation of the Republic of Moldova for 2023-2030 developed with the support of UNDP Moldova.
To facilitate private-sector engagement, UNDP directly contracts private entities to enable ICT companies and start-ups in developing innovative and digital solutions. Such projects are carried out in response to government requests or via the Moldova Digital Innovation Challenge, launched and implemented in partnership with various governmental partners. Since 2021, UNDP Moldova has supported the development of innovative digital solutions in fintech, agri-tech, education, data, digital identity, etc.