Digital transformation, cyber security and modern financial technologies: every day these spheres are becoming more and more important all over the world, and Armenia is no exception. It is no coincidence that it was decided to hold the SILICON MOUNTAINS 2022 technological summit around these topics, which was held in Yerevan on Friday (photo report).
According to Armen Baldryan, Chairman of UEICT, which organized the summit with the support of the Central Bank of Armenia, it is fundamentally wrong to consider the three above-mentioned areas apart from each other. It is impossible to speak about digital transformation ignoring cybersecurity problems. It is hard to imagine modern financial technologies without digital transformation of at least the banking sphere, if not the country and society in general. In addition, the security of transactions taking place in the digital world cannot be forgotten either. That is why it was so important to present all three spheres at the summit at once.
Silicon Mountains summits are a new challenge for Armenia
Talking to Armenian news website NEWS.am, Baldryan said that the third SILICON MOUNTAINS summit was different from the first two: if earlier the participants would present the most interesting things that were taking place in the world, in the developed countries, and from which we, as a rule, were still far away, now they speak about our realities, about today’s challenges and what we will have to do in the near future.
But the main goal of the summit, of course, remains the same: to promote technological development of Armenia. This goal is reflected in the title of the summit.
"Silicon Mountains are a challenge for Armenia, this is where we aspire to, what we look up to. Our ambitions should be big, our threshold is very high. Our threshold is to compete or cooperate with Silicon Valley!" Armen Baldryan said.
This year's guest speakers of the summit were Andres Kütt (Estonia), an expert on digitalization, and Ramsés Gallego (Spain), an expert on cyber security and cyber resilience. And not only IT specialists, but also businessmen, bankers and many others came to hear about their experience and ask them questions. After all, digital transformation will eventually affect everyone - or almost all spheres.
Digital society 2.0
Estonia is one of the most advanced countries in the field of digital transformation, and Armenia - and not only Armenia - definitely has something to learn from it. Today many services in Estonia, which in the past required bureaucratic red tape and a huge amount of time, are already available online: in a matter of minutes you can open a large company, declare taxes, even take part in elections! Marriage, divorce, and real estate transfers are not allowed - these processes must still be attended in person.
Digital transformation expert Andres Kütt told Armenian news website NEWS.am that today Estonians are used to doing everything online. Moreover, they no longer have to do many things –a lot ofprocesses take place online without their participation.
"For example, a person has lost his job. In the past, he had to apply for unemployment benefits. Later it became possible to do it online. Now he doesn't even have to do that anymore. The databases are interconnected, and the social services immediately know what happened, and the person is notified that he or she is eligible for unemployment benefits."
Thus, digital transformation is making life much easier for Estonian citizens. In Armenia, digital technologies are not yet so widespread, and few services are available online today. But Andres Kütt believes that our country has good engineers and a stable base in order to move forward confidently.
However, we still lack something important: no, not some specific technological capabilities or even political will, but... the ability to cooperate, to cooperate across differences. And that skill, according to him, is very important, because digital transformation is a collective game, and you can't play it alone.
Attackers won't stop, neither will we
Digital transformation sooner or later raises the issue of digital security and integrity of digital data to prevent hackers from making a mess of things. That is where cybersecurity specialists come into play. At the SILICON MOUNTAINS summit, guest speaker from Spain, Ramsés Gallego, spoke about it.
Cyber security, as Ramsés Gallego told Armenian news website NEWS.am, is about protecting confidentiality, integrity and availability of data. It is the ability to correctly identify threats and competently defend against them.
The notion of cyber resilience, i.e., the ability to face the threats, foresee them and be ready for them, is also very relevant today.
According to Gallego, there will always be cyber attacks, and it is impossible to prevent them. But it is possible to be as prepared for them as possible. You can "build" a "castle" that will be inaccessible to almost any attack by the enemy. There are many ways to "build" such a "castle" - and every now and then there are new ones, because the enemies do not sleep and sometimes amaze by their ingenuity.
"Intruders and criminals will not stop. We're the good guys here, and we're not going to stop either," Gallego said.
The financial cart in a digital world
Today, the banking sector is one of the most "digitized" in Armenia. Although most of the public services are still available offline, many services in the financial sphere can already be received online, without leaving your computer or without letting go of your smartphone, and more and more people use such services today. However, if you stop developing and stop growing, there is a risk of losing a lot, at least a significant number of clients, who will be stolen by international competitors.
Komitas Stepanyan, Deputy Director of the Corporate Services Development Department at the Central Bank of Armenia, told Armenian news website NEWS.am that if you don't continue the digital transformation of the financial system, you may wake up one day and realize that the country's citizens have been "absorbed" by the giant international players.
"For example, Google, Apple, Facebook, then maybe some other digital giant will provide services, and our citizens will just join them. We will lose our citizens who live and work in our country and create value for our country. So digital transformation is an inevitable and mandatory requirement for the financial system. Moreover, starting the digital transformation specifically with the financial sector is, I think, the right decision, and the Central Bank is doing its best to move the cart and make a step forward," Stepanyan said.
How exactly to deepen digital transformation in Armenia's banking sector and where to find resources and funding for that is another question. The Central Bank of Armenia may hardly be able to do it alone, but Stepanyan said that many international organizations are interested in providing assistance and financial support, and many of their colleagues, including foreign guests of the Summit, are eager to share their experience and knowledge. So, our specialists will most probably not be left without assistance.
Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Nerses Yeritsyan noted during the SILICON MOUNTAINS that open and high-quality data is an asset vital for national wealth. He considers such data even a much more valuable resource than those that come from nature.
"Open access to high-quality data will create a well-developed and secure environment for businesses so that people can provide and develop their services and improve the well-being of citizens. As a result of all this, we should have smooth, proactive, personalized services. The most fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is that data should be owned by the people themselves, and we should have control over our data," said Yeritsyan.
The next SILICON MOUNTAINS summit is scheduled to take place at the end of this year. According to Armen Baldryan, it was also decided to hold two forums in Armenian regions during the year in order to attract specialists from there to pressing problems in the sphere of information technologies.