digitalizace v Česku - digitization

Commentary: Digitalization in the Czech republic

Commentary & Opinion / Digitalization

Commentary: Digitalization in the Czech republic

It was a pleasure to witness Monday’s visit by the President of the European Commission, especially if you’re digitalization advocates. According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a quarter of the 180 billion crowns from the National Recovery Plan are earmarked for the introduction of digital technologies, AI or robotics. This is great news, says Jaromír Hanzal of the Association for Applied Research in IT (AAVIT).

Not only in public life, but also in the economy, we need to motivate and support economic activities with higher added value to get rid of the ugly nickname – the European assembly shop. More than 15 years have passed since the Czech Republic joined the EU. It was only the coronavirus epidemic that moved us from proclaimed slogans to partial realization. As a result of the need to limit physical contact, everything was suddenly digitalized, both in the public and private spheres. 

However, the real need is far greater than what has been done in a covid year. It requires to address the issue economically, politically and philosophically. 

We need only look around us. The urge for a stronger deployment of digitalization in all areas of life in the Czech Republic is obvious. Our country comes out rather poorly in all EU assessments, both in the quantity of Internet connections and in the digitalization of public agendas. 

What are the major barriers to digital transformation in Czechia?

Reluctance, perhaps traditionalism, fear and concerns about security and freedom. On the other hand, lack of awareness, lack of vision, correct estimation of future developments, sustainability and, last but not least, political will.  

We hope that the visit of the EC Chairperson will prompt our leaders to start publicly communicating the need and more importantly the benefits of digitalization in various spheres of public and private life and in parallel, to clearly and vocally promote this trend in the context of the National Recovery Plan (NRP). And also to put it into practice. 

The health sector is a case in point. Already in 2016, a fairly detailed and well-developed digitalization pathway was presented by the then Minister and subsequently approved by the government. Unfortunately, nothing has been implemented to date. The (financial) instruments currently available to the Czech Republic tend not to be used for this purpose. This is despite the fact that we have been called upon directly by the European Union to pursue this specific objective of digitising the health sector in order to improve its financial efficiency. 

Very similar examples can be found in the case of cohesion funds intended for the private sector. In 2012, when the content of the programs according to which cohesion funds are distributed was being prepared, digitalization as such was only lightly flirted with.  The Digital Czech Republic strategy came much later and Country For the Future actually only recently. 

Ability do adapt is crucial

In today’s era of fast technology and rapid development of everything, it is necessary to be prepared for rapid changes and quick reactions to reality – which is what the NRP will enable. It can be described as a Sisyphean effort to convince economic policy makers and motivate them to make the changes that today’s times expect. Once we are set to support industry because it is traditional, it is also right.

Somehow, we have forgotten to see that the world around us is transforming and even the traditional industries we consider our flagship will not function without this transformation – and we cannot think of those who are worst off with digitalization in particular. On the contrary, we must also support those that are already digital leaders. Just as we were once able to understand that success and the future for this country in the middle of Europe is in advanced engineering, so we should understand that today’s success is in higher added value, i.e. digitalization. And we have that too!