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10th Annual LIKTA Conference Held

Information technologies must become more accessible for all businesses and residents in Latvia. The annual conference of the Latvian Information and Communication Technology Association (LIKTA) is always the most important national ICT event of the year in Latvia. The conference which took place toward the end of 2008 was the 10th one in the series of events.

Appearing at the conference, which was titled E-Services and Innovative Solutions in Latvia, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers spoke of the need to make information technologies more accessible for business and local residents in Latvia. He spoke of two major challenges which are directly linked to ICT services ensuring more effective E-government, and completing the process of territorial reforms.
LIKTA president Imants Freibergs recalled that the process of developing the Information Society in Latvia began nearly 20 years ago and is continuing today. Like Rga, the Information Society will never be finished, he said.  The challenges of the present day in shaping the Information Society include the effective use of resources so as to enhance competitiveness under conditions of an economic crisis, use of EU funding for projects of national importance, as well as education for local residents when it comes to E-services.  Freibergs also presented recent data which show that 57% of Latvias residents use the Internet at least once a week, but only 15% use broadband services.  Among companies with more than 10 employees, 86% use the Internet, while broadband services are used by only 60%.  Among small companies with fewer than 10 employees, only 49% use the Net.
Signe Blia, the Special Assignments Minister for Electronic Government Affairs of Latvia, offered a look at how E-services and the Information Society might develop over the next several years.  She insisted that trained and motivate users are the key issue, because without them, no effective E-service will be possible.
Latvias businesspeople and residents are mobilising to deal with the global challenges related to economic development.  The big question remains this:  How is it possible, with limited resources, to achieve effectiveness, enhance productivity, and maintain the speed of development?  E-services are a key to qualitative changes in labour productivity in the very near future.  E-services are also one of the main answers to the question of how to reduce public sector costs substantially while, at the same time, enhancing the quality of services that are provided.  The implementation and broad use of E-services will allow our country to leap ahead, said Sandis Kolomenskis, Country Manager of Microsoft Latvia, who also appeared at the conference.
The Chairman Europe of Microsoft Corporation, Jan Muehlfeit, for his part, recalled that the European Union is not one of those parts of the world in which enormous numbers of residents and natural resources are concentrated.  If Europe wishes to remain competitive on the global stage, its only hope lies in innovation and creativity.  Muehlfeit pointed to Finland as an example of success in enhancing competition.  Achievements there have been based on the fact that national priorities are quality in education and investments in innovations.
The annual LIKTA conference this year not only reviewed trends and realities with respect to E-services, but also discussed major innovations in the world of ICT and the way in which these will develop over the next three years.  Conference delegates approved a resolution in which they called on government institutions to take politically responsible decisions in terms of making use of the opportunities that are afforded by ICT so as to enhance the effectiveness of governance, to develop E-services and innovations, and to take other fundamentally important steps in pursuit of a resolution to the national economic crisis so as to facilitate the countrys sustainable development.
More than 300 people attended the conference representatives of management and specialists from the ICT sector, senior government officials, small and medium business representatives, people from various companies and organisations in the sector, IT directors and managers, local government and NGO representatives, etc.
Part of the conference was a panel discussion on the subject When Will E-Services Become an Everyday Element in Latvian Society?  Participants included Signe Blia, Sandis Kolomenskis, as well as Ivo Tukris, director of the Transport Ministrys Department of Communications, Lattelecom board chairman Juris Gulbis, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons president Juris Binde, FMS board chairman Jnis Bergs, and Pteris Strauti, a senior economic analyst at Swedbank.  Binde, Kolomenskis and Bergs are all also LIKTA board members.
The panel discussion allowed leaders in the development of electronic services in Latvia to talk about their opinions as to accomplishments and obstacles in the introduction and then development of E-services in Latvia.  Participants said that one of the biggest problems is a lack of clarity about the types of resources that will be available during a period of economic crisis for the development of the infrastructure that is of such great importance to the ICT sector.  Projects based on public-private partnership were discussed as one possible solution, but that is something which requires clear rules of the game.  Jnis Bergs said that the implementation of E-services cannot be a goal in and of itself.  E-services must be implemented in areas in which there are queues of people who have to spend a great deal of time in dealing with traditional services.  Theres no need for E-services which are used only once every five years, he said.  Participants in the panel discussion also said that businesspeople can facilitate the spread of E-services by making more active use of them in their transactions, while state and local government institutions could promote the more extensive use of E-services, not least by accepting the E-signature when tenders are submitted in public procurement procedures.  Imants Freibergs called on participants to set up a monitoring centre which could look at decisions and activities on the part of government institutions which hinder or delay the use of E-services in Latvia.
The conference was organised by the Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association together with the Secretariat of Special Assignments Minister for Electronic Government Affairs of Latvia.  The main partner for the conference was Microsoft Latvia, and partners were Lattelecom and ZZ Dats.

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