25.04.2019 | Serbia

Interview: Rajko Jovanović, Managing Director, S&T Serbia

The highway nobody sees

"Recently held Western Balkans Digital Summit in Belgrade fully indicated to what extent Serbia is ahead of the region in terms of digitization. Despite the fact that this process is still incomprehensible to many people, you unconsciously notice its benefits when your child is born or when you enroll your child to kindergarten or school, register your car or obtain personal documents. Every time you don't wait in line in front of desk you know it's exactly because of digitization“, says for Nedeljnik Rajko Jovanović, a manager of Serbian branch of the multinational company S&T, which has been the indispensable part of electronic administration architecture for more than ten years. Mr. Jovanović returned to Serbia in 2003 after a decade of successful IT career in the United States, from where he brought experience and work ethics helping him to manage the company with a billion Euros revenue on global scale in 2018. It has been conducting business in Serbia for almost 25 years, and today it employs more than 100 people.

You say digitization is the process which is still incomprehensible to many people. How much it is present in our lives, without us even knowing it?

When your child is born, you no longer go to four places to register its birth, but finish everything in 15 minutes in maternity hospital, after which you receive SMS and health insurance card on your home address. You register your car in 10 minutes without having to wait in line in a police department. This service saves millions for the state and citizens. The manner of enrolling children to schools and kindergartens is fully changed, which helps parents save their time. The same goes for obtaining certificates and personal documents. The state no longer requires citizens to submit data it already possesses. It is only part of the system, to establishment of which S&T provided a significant contribution. That is our highway nobody sees, these are our digital corridors, which today connect the whole Serbia, without exceptions.

What is your specific role in all that?

Our engineers are those who actively participated in designing and programming of the large portion of e-administration, including data exchange bus, so administration no longer works physically with papers, but electronically. That is faster and more reliable, since the possibility of human error is reduced to minimum. The advantages are evident, from saving millions in Euros, saving citizens’ time, with absolute increase in transparency of the process, since automation eliminates any abuse or discretionary decisions. When it comes to data exchange, what took weeks to be finished is now finished within a second. Just to be clear, the state must be the key factor of digitization process. Without readiness to change things we wouldn't have had this conversation. Many things had to be changed, from laws to bylaws, so as to enable institutional prerequisites for digitization. What is really positive in that process is that it kept upgrading all the time. The foundations were laid ten years ago, and the entire system kept upgrading afterwards. It is good that the state timely recognized digitization as one of the key priorities, since we can hardly find more efficient way for improving citizens' lives that is so palpable.

To what extent the entire system must be reliable and available? Is it one of the key things regarding services you provide to clients?

Just imagine what the bank, or some police department, maternity hospital or municipality where some of the digital services stop working would look like? Everything would stop. That is why the information systems through which digital services are provided must be stable and reliable. The team of our experts, together with partners from state administration, for almost a decade manages to enable availability and safety of the services, not only during standard working hours, but also in the so-called 24x7 regime, during the entire year.

Did your team of experts take part in similar projects in the region?

I am particularly proud of the social card project in Montenegro, implemented by our engineers using technological know-how and experience acquired in Serbia. The system provided far more efficient and just distribution of welfare.

How do you, as a citizen and also a manager of S&T, see the direction in which digital services in Serbia should develop?

The process of further digitization of the state should follow the contemporary trends and technological development, using experience from other countries with respect for certain national specificities at the same time. Precisely speaking, we expect faster transfer of majority of digital services to mobile devices, with inevitable inclusion of startup community in development of new applications.