No, Serbia is not ahead of the 16 EU countries in the development of e-government

Freepik/@ stokkete

Original article (in Serbian) was published on 04/10/2022

In yesterday’s print edition, the daily newspaper Informer published an article titled “Serbia in digitization ahead of 16 EU countries”, while in the subtitle, it added that “Serbia’s e-governance is currently in 40th place in the world, ahead of Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Poland…” However, the interpretation of the new United Nations report on the e-government development index by Informer does not fully correspond to the truth.

From Grenada to Latvia

In the first sentence of the text, Informer correctly states that “Serbia is among the ten countries in the world that have made the most progress in the digitalization of public administration”. And indeed, when we use the UN table on the e-government development index to compare countries’ progress to the year 2020, Serbia ranks 9th in the world. However, the second part of that sentence, as well as the title – which say that we are better than the 16 EU countries in terms of progress – are disputed. If we compare the progress of countries in relation to 2020 exclusively, Serbia is ahead of 26, not 16, EU members. Only Latvia has progressed more than Serbia.

To interpret these data, it is important to look at the overall picture of the development of e-government in different countries of the world. Serbia’s progress is significant, but a good ranking in the context of progress is made possible – above all – by the great room for progress that Serbia had. Even more reasons to celebrate in this context were first-placed Grenada, second-placed Ukraine, third-placed Guinea, and then Turkmenistan, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan…

 Good results and sensationalism

Let’s look at the total value of the Serbian EGDI (e-government development index). Serbia is in 40th place in the world, which Informer stated in its subtitle, but incorrectly added that “we are ahead of Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Poland…” We are ahead of these EU member states if we look at the countries’ progress from 2020 to today, but it cannot be said that the e-government of Serbia is “ahead” or better than the e-government in these countries.

EGDI of Serbia in 2022 is 0.8237; just ahead of us (mentioned in Informer) is Belgium, with a score of 0.8269. Germany has a score of 0.8770 and is in 22nd place, while Poland is 34th with a score of 0.8437 and Ireland is 30th with a score of 0.8567. Behind Serbia, in total, are six countries of the European Union, namely Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. Therefore, it can be argued that, according to the EGDI, Serbia’s e-governance is currently better than those EU countries and not the 16 EU countries or Poland, Belgium, Germany and Ireland.

For the sake of truth, it should be noted that certain information from Informer’s text is correct and that we can be pleased because of it. Serbia’s e-governance development index was indeed marked as “very high” by the UN for the first time, which can also be found in the UN publication on this topic. Then, we really are the best in the region according to the EGDI index, and to all this, we should add the fact that, with a jump of 18 places in terms of progress in e-government, Serbia achieved the third progress in Europe, where only Latvia and Ukraine are better than us in terms of progress.