Romania has one of the most competitive telecom markets in Europe – having Vodafone, Orange, Telekom and the combative local player Digi.Mobil, some of the fastest internet connections in the world, yet at the same time, scored the lowest in the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2017. The mission of the Minister of Communications and Information Society (MCIS) in such a paradoxical situation may seem both essential and complex. Petru Bogdan Cojocaru, a young IT professional with more than 12 years of experience in IT&C industry, has taken up the challenge in the PSD Government formed in January 2018. He shared with The Global Research team his goals and main projects of the Ministry.
TGR: What are the priorities of your mandate as Minister of Communications and Information Society?
Petru Bogdan Cojocaru: When I took over my mandate in January 2018 I decided to continue the useful projects that were already running, some of which we have completed in the meantime. Discussing about priorities, the most important one is about digitalization (digital transformation) of Romanian society, implemented through projects undertaken in cooperation with other ministries. The concept is rather simple: at the center stand the citizens and their needs of certain services rendered by different bodies coordinated by each ministry. With each ministry we cooperate individually through technical teams to build the technical charts for each project. Following the creation of such project charts, OIPSI, an intermediate body within our Ministry which is in charge with promoting the information society, creates the user guides and then coordinates the implementation with the other ministries, for ex. with Ministry of Administration and Interior, Ministry of Labor and Social Justice, Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Education and others. One key partner is the Ministry of EU Funds as most funds for digital transformation flow from EU structural funds.
TGR: What is the impact of digitalization on Romanian society?
Petru Bogdan Cojocaru: Digitalization means developing platforms in order to give citizens easy access to services and documents related to life events. Everything is done having at the center the 36 life events corresponding to certain institutions. For example, when a child is born there are certain procedures that need to be completed in cooperation with the Ministry of Administration and Interior. This is where digitalization adds value: the citizen is not required to turn up to a certain counter, instead they can do everything remotely. This is what we’re aiming at together with the Ministries having responsibilities concerning the 36 life events.
TGR: How can digitalization help the business environment?
Petru Bogdan Cojocaru: Our role as Ministry of Communications and Information Society is to regulate and propose legislation in order to create an appropriate legal framework, taking into consideration the necessities and proposals from other governmental bodies and private sector representatives, that will allow them to operate, invest and develop in the IT&C industry. Regarding the digitalization of the relation of the business environment with the government our goal is to make this process as transparent and cost effective as possible for all stakeholders. For example, we are cooperating with the National Trade Register Office, following some successful European models, in order to simplify the incorporation procedures and other related operations.
Other than our lawmaker and regulator roles, we initiated a significant number of projects in order to meet the increasing need of digitalization that Romania is facing nowadays. Currently we have projects, such as the Guide for Private Beneficiaries in Innovation, worth around EUR 29mio dedicated to private companies. Another example is the NGN – Next Generation Network project, which complements an ongoing project – Ro-Net, designed to set-up the broadband infrastructure at a national level in areas without coverage. In pursuing our goal to provide digital services to citizens in order to increase their living standard, we achieve an indirect effect of growing the IT&C sector because, after all, this projects are delivered by private companies competing in public tenders. Hence, everybody benefits: citizens, industry, society in general.
TGR: Is Romania ready to move forward to 5G technology?
Petru Bogdan Cojocaru: There is a certain demand regarding the 5G technology and we will propose to the Government a Memorandum for the formation of a working group in order to have discussions, debates to which we will invite both public institutions and private companies, associations, all future beneficiaries of the 5G technology. Our intention is to identify and facilitate those services which are not possible under the 4G system. We intend to have a strategy in place by the end of 2018 having included and taken into consideration the input from all stakeholders.
TGR: Romanian Post, one of the largest employers in Romania belongs to MCIS. What are your plans regarding this giant organization?
Petru Bogdan Cojocaru: I believe we have sufficient infrastructure and human resources to turn the Romanian Post into a symbol. There have been challenging times in the past; however, we are now confident that in cooperation with other ministries, especially with the Ministry of Public Finance and Ministry of Labour and Social Justice, we can design a plan in order to turn the Romanian Post into a profitable and world class institution. Recently we appointed a new team there and we are all working towards the same goal, having Poșta Română reach its full potential and live up to the essential role in Romanian society it was always meant to have.
TGR: What is your personal message to the readers of The Global Research?
Petru Bogdan Cojocaru: We are making constant efforts to correct delays we experienced in our digital transformation and I believe we will catch-up quickly due to our determination and available specialized human resources. We have numerous specialized universities in academic centers around the country that constantly provide the IT&C industry with talented young people. Regarding the financing, we have access to both governmental resources and EU non-refundable funds. Having these three components- determination, human resources and funding, we appear to be suitably placed to achieve our primary goal: to increase the quality of services offered to citizens and their living standards.