Trends and Developments
The acceleration of the digitisation and digitalisation trends during the COVID-19 pandemic has led not only to a more stringent need for access to public and private services via digital means, but also to more pressing concerns regarding cybersecurity and potential threats from third-party state actors.
While the new technologies and the rapid development of the interoperability and interconnectivity of essential fields of activity are a driver for economic growth and social development, the ensuing challenges are not easy. These include fragmentation, interoperability, red tape around permits for network constructions, low digital skills, and exposure to cyber-risks.
Nevertheless, the reforms and investments provided in its National Recovery and Resilience Plan under the Digital Transformation component aim to ensure that Romania will have a coherent and integrated digital infrastructure which will help the transition to a more digitalised economy and society.
The importance of the topic is reflected in the budget allocated in Romania's National Recovery and Resilience Plan (endorsed by the European Commission in September 2021) to digital transformation-related investments, which represent a fifth of the total amount allocated under the plan.
In addition, Romania has continued to make headlines with its ever-flourishing technology sector, which has among other things seen a multibillion-dollar IPO, and Bucharest being designated as the venue of the EU Cybersecurity Competence Centre.
Technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning and 5G are expected to play an important role in Romania's economic growth, offering numerous opportunities for investments.
Digital Transformation in the Public Sector
The digitalisation of public administration plays a key role in Romania's National Recovery and Resilience Plan, with an emphasis on areas such as justice, employment and social protection, environment, civil service management and skills development, public procurement, cybersecurity, tax and customs. That adds up to a plan to build a secure government cloud infrastructure and to support the deployment of electronic IDs.
Romania also plans to invest in both:
- the digitalisation of health by developing an integrated e-Health system, which will help to connect over 25,000 healthcare providers and telemedicine systems; and
- the digitalisation of education, by improving digital pedagogical skills, educational content and equipment and resources.
The digital transformation is mainly focused on:
- setting up the government cloud;
- ensuring interoperability;
- improving connectivity;
- increasing the protection and cybersecurity of public and private entities; and
- increasing the digital competence of the public sector.
The process to ensure the digital transformation is to go hand in hand with the amendment of the Occupations Classification Code for the same to include the definition of new digital occupations.
The Government Cloud is contemplated under two envisaged reforms.
- “Development of a unitary framework for defining the architecture of a government cloud”; and
- “Increasing digital competence for public service and digital education throughout the life of citizens” – this reform includes one investment which covers the deployment of the Government Cloud Infrastructure.
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan provides two legal enactments which are needed in order to develop a unitary framework for defining the architecture of a government cloud, namely:
- the Information Systems Interoperability Law, which will detail the uniform set of standards and rules that public entities are supposed to apply for the development of applications in a secure and sustainable environment; and
- the Government Cloud Act, which will set out the responsibilities and tasks regarding the design, implementation, development and management of the cloud infrastructure, technologies and services.
With regard to the Government Cloud Infrastructure, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan sets out four measures, namely:
- the construction of Tier IV and Tier III data centres by design;
- putting in place specific communication and information technology infrastructure;
- developing and expending support infrastructure such as electricity and physical security measures; and
- deploying scalable and high-availability information technology and communications (IT&C) infrastructure in each data centre.
High-capacity networks and the necessary measures to ensure the transition to EU 2025 connectivity targets are both required in view of the digital transformation.
Stimulating private investment for the deployment of high-capacity networks, including through the acceleration of the national roll-out of 5G networks and through the provision of broadband coverage for white areas (where no telecoms infrastructure exists) has therefore become crucial.
In this respect, Romania is expected to take the necessary steps so that the auction for granting 5G licences may take place in the foreseeable future. This includes the transposition into national legislation of Directive (EU) 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (“European Electronic Communications Code”).
Broadband coverage and speeds
With a view to ensuring the provision of broadband coverage for white areas, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan envisages the implementation of a scheme to support the use of communication services through different types of instruments for beneficiaries, with a focus on white areas. This scheme is meant to help with the provision of coverage for very high-speed internet access, namely at least 100 Mbps delivered through FTTB/H and/or 5G networks to those areas where the market cannot deliver these services on its own, ie, disadvantaged rural areas.
In order to address (i) the areas not covered with fixed networks, but which have a demand for services; and (ii) the fixed networks which do not provide for the necessary speeds to offer proper electronic communication services, investments are to be made in passive infrastructure and active network elements, backhaul and access segment, as well as in deploying new networks and upgrading the existing ones.
eHealth and telemedicine system
The pandemic increased the demand for telemedicine solutions. Although changes in the legal framework have been made to accommodate telemedicine, investments are needed in order to increase the access of rural and small urban areas, as well as of vulnerable groups, to specialised consultations via telemedicine.
The digitalisation of the National Health Insurance House and putting in place measures designed to ensure the cybersecurity of the Health Insurance IT Platform are two further important tasks for the Romanian authorities. In this respect, investments are planned to allow the integration of health institutions through digital infrastructure which will help to reduce fragmentation and increase the quality of health data.
eID and digital signature
The efforts towards the adoption of the eID are to continue, with the aim of facilitating digital interaction between citizens and public and private entities. Further to the investments set out in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, Romania plans to deliver over eight million eIDs.
The eID will enable the authentication process when using public administration online services and will offer the possibility of holding a qualified electronic signature issued by qualified certification service providers.
All reforms and investments mentioned above are envisaged to be carried out using non-reimbursable grants.
Bucharest is the host of the European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre (the “EU Cybersecurity Centre”), which should play an important role in connecting public stakeholders with the relevant researchers and private sector.
The aim of the EU Cybersecurity Centre is, among other things:
- to facilitate access by small and medium enterprises, start-ups or associations to knowledge by providing a helping hand in solving cybersecurity challenges, like the implementation of the security-by-design approach;
- to facilitate collaboration and the sharing of expertise among all relevant stakeholders; and
- to support the adoption and integration of state-of-the-art cybersecurity products, services and processes by public authorities at their request, by demand-side industries and by other users.
Having the EU Cybersecurity Centre in Bucharest will undoubtedly consolidate Romania's position as a significant actor in the field.
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