Good evening. I’m glad to have the chance to address you all at the Neum NetWork 9 Conference. I regret my travel schedule prevents me from being there in person.
The IT sector is a fundamental part of the strength and success of the United States’ economy. It is a bright spot here in Bosnia and Herzegovina and can help transform the country into a place where people can build a prosperous future.
I’d like to mention five ways the U.S. Embassy is working to advance that transformation.
Making Government More Efficient
First, we are investing in technologies to improve safety and security in BiH, from robots to clear mines to information and communication systems that support law enforcement.
Second, IT can transform government, in important ways – cutting bureaucracy, limiting corruption, and creating a better business environment.
Our Agency for International Development has helped the Federation government to develop online annual statements. This empowers citizens to verify that employers are paying their social contributions. USAID has also invested in budget management information systems, for all 10 cantons and helped install treasury systems in 39 municipalities. Next challenge is the implementation of existing e-signature laws in harmony with EU standards. Perhaps the best example of how technology can provide transparency to the public is the air quality monitor tweeting from the top of our Embassy in Sarajevo.
Third, the U.S. Embassy sees that BiH schools are failing to prepare students ready to fill jobs in a growing IT sector. We have been engaged on education reform through the Business Education Council with leading IT business leaders, including BIT Alliance, LinkMostar, Telemach, and others. Our nine, soon to be ten, American Corners offer youth across the country the opportunity to develop STEM skills through workshops on everything from robotics to coding. And young people at Embassy-supported hackathons have created apps that help kids with special needs, improve food safety, and more.
We are equipping STEM classrooms across the country where students will receive science, tech, engineering and math training in a curriculum focused on critical thinking.
To support the IT sector, we ask you to join us in advocating for legislative changes to support innovative educational institutions such as IT Academies, workshops and boot camps, and to modernize university curricula.
U.S. companies are already taking action to address these education gaps. For example, Microsoft created the BiH Skills Center. And Cisco supports 10 Cisco Academies.
Growing the Economy
Fourth, we see the IT industry powering economic growth. IT is a global industry creating opportunities that transcend borders. Good-paying IT jobs can keep BiH’s talented youth well employed here at home.
That’s why the United States supports tech sector entrepreneurs through our USAID Diaspora Invest program. For example, Bosnian-American entrepreneur Biljana Lovrinovic received a USAID co-financing to open her Travnik-based IT firm, Galop Digital, and offer digital marketing and software development services to clients globally.
And finally, because the United States wants to see more growth of IT sector employment here, we continually advocate for stronger intellectual property rights.
All of you as tech leaders have the capacity to change your country for the better. You can deliver creative thinking and innovation for a more prosperous future. I wish you much success at the conference and in your work.