Regional Conference on Smart Cities,
Opportunity to Attract Investments Technology in the Balkan Countries
The Executive Director of AmCham, Mr. Neritan Mullaj: “This is an important “momentum” in the application of new technologies in the development of the cities of the Western Balkans”
Tirana September 20-21, 2022. The American Chamber of Commerce in Albania in cooperation with the American Embassy organized the two-day event: “Smart Cities – Regional Conference of Western Balkan Countries”. For the first time, leading technology companies, mayors from the Western Balkans, as well as academics from the ICT field were participants in this conference.
The conference was greeted by a high level of representatives at the national and international level, Mrs. Yuri Kim, US Ambassador in Tirana, the Ambassador of the EU Delegation in Albania, Mrs. Christiane Hohmann, Representative of the Department of Commerce for Southeast Europe, Ms. Pamela Ward, EBRD Vice President for Policies and Partnerships, Mr. Mark Bowman and the Mayor of Tirana, Mr. Erion Veliaj.
The Executive Director of AmCham Albania, Mr. Neritan Mullaj, opening the conference, stated that “the organization of this conference for its regional importance and the actors it engages, is an important “momentum” in the application of new technologies in the development of cities” .
The Importance of Smart Cities and Safe Technologies
The first day of the conference is focused on the opportunities and promotion of smart technology investments in the cities of the region as well as unexplored potentials that the region offers. The topics of the first day offered the participants the opportunity of a presentation on smart cities and their future. They have been introduced through the concrete projects such as the one implemented in Athens by Microsoft. A selected panel of experts from the academic world, representatives of well-known businesses such as Amazon, Cisco and Parsons moderated by Kevin J. Krizek Professor of Environmental Architecture at the University of Colorado talked about how cities can find solutions to the fundamental issues of development such as renewable energy, recycling, air purification, etc. It is the governments and local authorities that take the fundamental role in the implementation of innovative ideas in the smart transformation of cities.
The session on the security that technological developments should provide in the services and platforms offered to citizens was quite interesting. The discussion on cyber security becomes even more important in the situation faced recently from the attack of Iranian hackers on online platforms. A selected panel composed of academics and business representatives such as Motorola and moderated by Evanna Hu, Executive Director of the company Omelas, concretely developed the discussion on the establishment of systems that manage, archive and transfer data collaborating with reliable companies.
Panelists in this session agreed that technology offers advantages that go hand in hand with the risk of hacking and cyber-attacks. It is the duty of governments and policymakers to engage funds to cyber security but also to educate employees and internet users to recognize and implement security elements while surfing the internet. US Ambassador Yuri Kim, welcoming the conference, said that “The United States is always working with allies and partners on ways to protect our governments and people from the malicious use of new technologies. But because of our citizens’ dependence on technology and the constant threats to their security and privacy from malicious actors, we all need partnerships – across governments and with the private sector – to keep our people, our businesses, and our safe democracies”.
At the end of the first day, the financing of projects that bring digital transformations to the cities of the Region, has also been a very interesting session.
Green Investments and Innovative Projects
The second day of the conference was focused on the discussion among the representatives of the Municipalities from the Region and Greece who presented smart projects in the development of cities. The discussion focused on urban developments that rely on green investments. Practical examples of these investments have been provided by several municipalities that have talked about ways to implement projects aimed at renewable energy, reducing carbon in the air, using solar panels, developing transport based on electric cars, etc. The conference has been an extraordinary networking opportunity among all the actors who, beyond the sessions, have been able to get to know each other and exchange experiences and develop collaborations.
At the end of the conference, the President of the American Chamber, Mr. Enio Jaço, thanking all the actors who were involved in this great event, emphasized three important messages. “A message to global companies that we invited to look at Albania as part of a Western Balkans market and this had a nice “side effect” as one of the technology giants is looking at the possibility of coming to this market.
The second message is about the exceptional work done from mayors and municipalities. Meantime they have other challenges to overcome and one of them is the funding challenge. One of the conclusions of the conference was that local governments need a decentralization of fiscal rules so that they have greater fiscal independence. We support them, but at the same time we encourage them to work with global companies to create interesting projects for their municipalities.
The third message is to further strengthen the cooperation between the public and private sectors as a necessary cooperation in relation to smart cities and projects for municipalities” said Enio Jaço.