The original text appeared on the lietuva.lt website
Over the past five years, the digital economy in Lithuania has been steadily growing (7.6% of the total economy at the end of 2019, the EU average in 2017 – 10.3%). The digital economy in Lithuania is currently the 5th most significant sector of the economy in terms of its added value. In the digital economy, the information technology (IT) industry is the most prominent with 56% growth over five years, while the number of information and communications technology (ICT) professionals in Lithuania increased by 17%, accounting for 2.7% of the total number of persons employed at the end of 2019.
The country’s ability to use digital solutions is essential in the fast-paced technologically advancing global world. However, the role of digitalization has become particularly important in the face of worldwide pandemic. Currently, the countries have to use innovative solutions in their fight against the virus and the consequences of the epidemic. Lithuania is also facing these challenges, and the crisis has shown its capacity to adopt new measures in different areas of life and business and to develop innovative solutions for solving problems faced by the world.
The potential for digitalization is reflected not only in the rapid growth of the digital economy, but also in the fact that as many as 40% of jobs in Lithuania can be digitalized –the highest percentage among the OECD members. Such potential is particularly significant in retaining jobs during the quarantine.
New solutions are particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and the quarantine. More and more businesses in Lithuania are taking up the previously untested possibility to trade online. The pace of business digitalization is also supported by the state. The website of the Lithuanian business support agency Versli Lietuva provides all the necessary information for small and medium-sized businesses seeking to start online sales and regularly updates the list of all e-shops. The Ministry of the Economy and Innovation has allocated significant European Union (EU) investments for this purpose. A call for EU investment facility on the digitization of industry LT has been launched to encourage industries to introduce digital solutions in manufacturing.
The global pandemic poses a challenge not only for the economic sector. The well-being of the population and its emotional health are equally important. The idea of how to address the problem proposed by Lithuanians at the global hackathon The Global Hack was recognized among the best, winning the second place. Over 15,000 participants from 100 countries offered their solutions as to how to address the problems posed by COVID-19 in 1,000 innovative projects. The Lithuanian mobile application Act on Crisis will provide complex support at three levels: respiratory techniques, anonymous counselling of members of the public and individual consultations with certified professionals.
Lithuanians have also developed a MEDO application for medical personnel, pharmacists and members of their families who found themselves on the frontline and who wish to receive free remote psychological support during the pandemic. Such a decision has shown the willingness of the mental health professionals to show solidarity with doctors, which has turned into a real volunteer initiative.
The hackathon #EUvsVirus took place last weekend, bringing together thousands of enthusiasts of creative innovations and technology from around the world. The Lithuanian leadership in fintech was recognized by the top award to the solution proposed by the Bankera team in the digital finance category.
The Lithuanian fintech team has developed a solution to help small and medium-sized businesses in Europe which have suffered losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, to secure reliable and fast short-term financing. Using the model, businesses would receive the funds required to meet their financial obligations (e.g. to make rent payments, payments to suppliers, etc.), thus ensuring the continuity of their own activities and those of their suppliers.
Initiated by Ministry of Economy and Innovation and Create Lithuania and now part of Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology, GovTech Lab allows, allows the country to take a different look at its public sector issues. The latter is a rapidly developing innovation ecosystem in which start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) develop innovative solutions, often based on the latest technologies to offer solutions for the public sector. GovTech Lab won the award in the Prosperity category at the competition organized by the Innovations in Politics Institute in Berlin in December 2019. GovTech Lab offered its solutions at an essential time for Lithuania fighting against the COVID-19 virus by organizing the hackathon Hack the Crisis. Several valuable solutions were proposed: a mobile quarantine application to promote self-isolation during the quarantine. The automatic chatroom robot ViLTe installed on the website www.koronastop.lt helps provide faster and more reliable answers to queries from the public on COVID-19. Positive news is shared on the portal MesVieningi.lt. The portal is a project developed remotely in two days aimed at distributing good emotions thereby reducing the risk or even resolving some potential social problems (increasing number of depressive episodes, violence in the immediate environment, alcoholism, emotional health problems, etc.) faced by the countries fighting the COVID-19 virus.
Lithuania is one of the countries that has adopted and successfully introduced the digital approach in the eHealth system. Its functionality stands out during the quarantine. Such a system is vital in increasing the availability of information and the possibility to provide consultancy to patients even without the opportunity to meet them face-to-face. Patients have access to services at a distance via video calls or telephone, electronic prescriptions, appointments for doctors, medical certificates, and arrangements for tests are issued electronically. All test results related to the diagnosis of COVID-19 are available on the eHealth portal. Thus, all patients, regardless of where they have been tested (in a mobile post, an emergency unit, a fever clinic or in a hospital), may check their test results on their patient account online.
During the quarantine, all schooling moved online, therefore teachers, children and their parents have faced a significant challenge. On the other hand, teaching remotely in Lithuanian schools is not a new experience. Elements of it, such as informing parents about the learning outcomes of a pupil and participating in the learning process in real-time (the so-called electronic daybook), homework tasks, counselling and other similar solutions for pupils have been adopted and applied in most Lithuanian schools since 2006. A recent survey carried out by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport reflect the level of digitization in schools. The study showed that 92% of schools have already encountered distance learning by providing consultancy to pupils and applying electronic daybook.
A further survey carried out one week following the introduction of universal distance learning, revealed that 90% of schools have implemented all planned activities and have fully introduced distance learning. Since the remote learning has become a key element in the educational process during the quarantine, schools and the education community have been encouraged to focus on and seek innovation in order to achieve common objectives.
The IT infrastructure in the country is important for the application of digital tools. It is sufficiently well developed in Lithuania, and we have one of the fastest public wireless Internet services in the world and full internet availability. However, the country’s e-solutions and the overall readiness to apply them are equally important. Lithuania’s score in the e-government development index presented biannually by the United Nations (last publication –in 2018) shows the country’s readiness to solve its problems digitally. Lithuania ranks 40th among 193 countries globally in the index.
Read the original text at lietuva.lt