Highlights from day 2 at the Macedonia2025 Summit

posted November 2, 2017

Another successful Macedonia2025 Summit has ended. We have seen the future coming from Silicon Valley, the Negev desert, and Croatia. We have also been inspired and challenged to further develop the technology sector in Macedonia. Macedonia has made progress but we must continue to work together to improve even more. Day 2 highlights are summarized below.

Highlights

“Media is now no different to other cloud-based services, and communication and media services are converging”. Darko Ratkaj, Senior Project Manager at European Broadcasting Union

Walk into any home and you will see that television, phones, and computers have merged. This has provided great opportunities but also unique problems. These problems include fake news, the squeezing out of local content, and the vulnerability of companies to changes by search-algorithms. The EU are looking to see if regulations can help but it is not easy to regulate the cutting edge.

“Just like we are using apps on our phone today, use of AI will become widespread in everyday life”. Alek Icev, Engineering Manager at Google, USA

Another big technological change is the growth of AI. AI is growing more sophisticated but is also moving from the labs and chess boards into regular businesses. Big online companies and regular businesses are relying on AI more and more to get great answers quickly from the mountains of data they face. AI is also helping to turn images into data opening up new areas for analytics.

“We are a desert country surrounded by enemies. We need technology and innovation to survive”. Dana Gavish, VP, BGN, Ben Gurion University

Israel is an example of how a country can develop through innovation. Israel is only 8 million people with few natural resources but it has become one of the top nations for innovation. For example, Israel has over 72 companies listed on the NASDAQ, second only to the US and China. According Dana Gavish the key to this transformation is an amazing dedication of its people to see Israel succeed despite the very difficult circumstances it faces. People are key and Israelis show this by the way they even invest in their children. Children grow up exposed to a culture of innovation where a contribution is expected of them.

“Just relying on labor market arbitrage won’t work in the Balkans because of competition from Asia. Companies must find their secret for adding value… We need to be ambitious. Do we want cheap exports or smart people”, Alexander Memca, Managing Partner at InterWorks, Macedonia

Macedonia’s IT industry has grown dramatically in the last ten years. Both domestic, diaspora, and foreign companies are employing local workers. However, the potential can be increased if universities could give graduates more practical skills, and if more IT workers showed ambition to continually improve. Do we have a culture of only reaching so far? A culture of stagnation? The best workers are also heading overseas but not because of money but because of the underdeveloped innovation eco-system.

“We need a more systematic approach to our innovation eco-system”. Marta Arsovska Tomovska, UN World Summit Awards Board Member, and former Macedonian minister for Information and Society

Macedonian IT may provide a cost advantage to the EU but it cannot compete with Asia and India as a smart hub; these markets are cheaper and have the scale to attract big companies. Macedonian companies must find where they can add value.

“Being green is not about color but about improving the quality of life. This is even more important when people can now work anywhere in the world”. Tjaša Ficko, Deputy Mayor of Ljubljana

Ljubljana was voted the green capital of Europe in 2016. They had the vision and the courage to make changes. Not all the change was easy. Many people protested the closing of roads in the city center so the city had to provide solutions (e.g. more pedestrian bridges over the river, and electric hire bike) to make the change a win-win for everyone.

Sweden has made incredible progress in renewable energy and waste reduction. Most of this change has been paid by consumers not the government! Government made the policy changes and then consumers paid for the changes through user fees. This is a template for other countries.

“Worse than the fear of failure is the hatred of successful people in the Balkans”. Aco Momcilovic, Chief Human Resources Officer at Rimac Automobili

Rimac Automobili is a success story in many ways. They are a world leading technology company that are not only giving high-level jobs to Croatians but also to the diaspora, and to people from 14 other countries. While the government has provided some help, Rimac is a pioneer in business that has largely made its own way. They are also a pioneer in terms of Balkan culture: they are not afraid of failure and not deterred by those jealous of their success.

“It is better to give than to receive”. John Bitove

John Bitove Senior provided an example of love and generosity to Macedonians both in the diaspora and in Macedonia itself. The Bitove family have continued their commitment to Macedonia with the announcement of the Bitove Entrepreneurship program. Stay tuned for further details on our website.

“Leave here with a purpose” Mike Zafirovski

Mike Zafirovski, Robert Arsov, Ana Arsov, and Zoran Martinovski closed the conference saying that Macedonia has made a lot of progress but that there is still more to do. Macedonia2025 will continue to support Macedonia. Robert quoted John Bitove Senior in closing:

“We will receive something back when we give from the bottom of our hearts”. John Bitove Senior.

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