Minister of Information Society, Macedonia
Good day. I wanted to thank Armen Orujyan, who is a fellow member of GAID’s Board, for this opportunity to talk to you about the wonders of young people, entrepreneurship, technology and information.
As Minister of Information Society for Macedonia. I am in charge of developing a strategy for growing the information society in my country. We have exciting projects that affect all economic sectors, ranging from agriculture, education, justice — by introducing laws for electronic signatures in a paperless environment— and also e-government services. This is a relatively new initiative, and so far the results have been very positive.
First, let me say that if you can understand what young people think, then you can understand where the future is going. Once we understand how the young generation wants to develop as a society, we can be ahead of the game. If we can motivate the entrepreneurial and business development capabilities of young people, we can help create some of the top brands in the world, just look at the young people, many who were still in college, who created today’s top Internet companies like Facebook and Google, even going back to the then young people who created Apple.
Information is a priceless commodity. You can talk about oil, gas, etc. but information is the key, and whoever has this commodity at the right time, will be ahead of the rest of the people. So introducing mobile and communications technology to young people in smaller states, has allowed them to be on the same level as people in larger Western nations, to have access to invaluable information.
In Macedonia in 2006, less than 10% of people had Internet in their homes, and now we’re close to 50%. Now we have a very well developed communications sector. We have a lot of fixed and mobile operators and two years ago we licensed about 20 WiMax operators. Mobile penetration is over 100%, actually about 125% which means that 25% of our population has more than one mobile device. This is a huge change in access to information.
Technology is dramatically changing society. Communication and the use of technology overall allows young people to do research and share innovative ideas with the rest of the world. That’s where it starts, first doing the due diligence to see if your idea is viable. I believe that without technology, entrepreneurship cannot be successful. The information and tools are out there but not necessarily all in one place. Even for an experienced Internet user or experienced entrepreneur, it’s still challenging sometimes to find the information. You could spend hours and weeks looking for it and may be very close to it but you are still a click away.
With a growing virtual library of all the information from around the world, I believe that we are missing one system, an “ecosystem,” where all that diverse information can be accessed. When that happens, instead of spending hours online looking for that information, you can spend those hours on further developing your entrepreneurial idea.
I know that Athgo is creating a portal, a one-stop place, to get access to these types of tools and resources. I’ve seen an exciting prototype presentation and when Athgo gets this rolling, it will be something very big.
I also support Athgo’s mission to empower young people to create constructive enterprises. It’s a great concept. The challenge is implementing it. In the past, people may have had some potentially transformative ideas but for some reason they flopped because something wasn’t there at the right time and place. This kind of concept is coming at the right time — with the world being flat as Thomas Friedman said — anyone from anywhere in the world can connect with anyone else and this type of “ecosystem” can be a melting pot where all these great ideas can come together, and all these venture capitalists who are looking for creative solutions to support can come together. So the concept is a win-win for everyone. I’m really looking forward for Athgo’s portal to start functioning and I will be the first one to sign up and see how it works out, and contribute some ideas that I have.
Finally, I definitely support any effort to advance MDGs through encouraging entrepreneurship. GAID is taking a leadership in this through the creation of an “E-MDG Center” which will be a one-stop shop with a pool of informational plus decision support tools.
The future’s so bright, we may have to wear shades!