The journey to a ‘Gigabit Society’ in Poland: Q&A with Marek Zagórski, Secretary of State for Cybersecurity

ITU News recently caught up with Marek Zagórski, Secretary of State for Cybersecurity, Chancellery of the Prime Minister, to understand the state of play on sustainable digital development in Poland, especially in the wake of COVID-19.*

How do digital technologies influence sustainable development in Poland?

Digitization undoubtedly plays an irreplaceable role that contributes to industry 4.0, smart cities, e-heath, modern administration and Gigabit Society Goals. With both current and expected state of play, we hope to meet all goals of Gigabit Society Agenda by 2025.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a common goal of the Polish administration and digitization is one of the greatest means to fulfil them.

We consider digitization as an indicator in our national strategies and I am pleased it has made such a significant impact. People enjoy information and communication technologies (ICTs) and recent data indicate that the value of the telecom market in Poland has risen by over 15 per cent since last 5 years.

To raise digital potential, and for people to notice the change, digitization should be complementary. Internet access ought to be followed by e-services and platforms dedicated to education, e-health, and access to culture.

I am pleased to say that broadband infrastructure is no longer “an exclusive product” but considered as a standard by the majority of Polish citizens, with flagship services at the final stage of development. One that deserves mentioning is the Nationwide Education Network that has been of much use during first lockdown due to COVID-19. With this project we have connected over 19,500 schools with broadband or wireless and the service is designed to be used by over 5 million users. These actions are compliant with European Commission plans to ensure fast Internet in schools and by its results we are looking at becoming one of the leading EU countries with digital potential in education.

As a government we must adjust to changing circumstances and make use of the popularization of ICTs to advance digital transformation. I believe that with further digitization we are going to meet the goals of our 5G Strategies and National Broadband Plans.

What are the main actions the government is undertaking to accelerate the digital transformation in Poland?
Our goal is to keep the telecom market innovative and competitive. Even nowadays, many European countries face digital exclusion due to a lack of broadband infrastructure, especially in sparsely populated areas. Poland is identifying fewer and fewer regions that, due to low population and limited funding, are suffering from lack of broadband access. As policy-makers, we are very much aware that making investment-friendly environments in general doesn’t always apply to all sectors, such as telecom. So, in terms of policies that are needed to support digital transformation, we launched a special approach for those regions.

The results of our actions speak for themselves and come from our flagship programme: “Operational Program Digital Poland” which was submitted by Poland to WSIS Prizes 2019. I am convinced it meets expectations of the telecom market and society. With appropriately valued subsidies, we were able to carry out over 160 infrastructural projects for which we allocated over 2 billion euro.
“Operational Program Digital Poland” not only advances development of modern telecom infrastructure but also e-government services, digitization of cultural heritage and in consequence –improves the digital skills of society across the board.
We are most pleased to share our experiences in strategies for 5G implementation at the upcoming Regional Forum for Europe, that Poland has co-organized with ITU.
How have digital technologies helped Poland to overcome COVID-19 related challenges?

It’s due to digitalization and smart governing that Poland has dealt with the COVID-19 economic crisis so well. We were able to introduce our citizens to remote work, education and e-health but most importantly, they were able to stay in touch with their close ones. We are looking to support people in continuing their ordinary way of life through digital means. Poland considers digitalization as a tool that might be the best-known solution to overcome COVID-19-related challenges.

Should those solutions develop and COVID-19 be contained, we are hoping to make use of our accomplishments and improve them in ways the public might accept. This might be helpful for students that wish to compare continuing their education with trying a first work experience, but also for elderly that wish to be in touch with their loved ones, or for people with disabilities that wish to be part of modern society in accessible manner. We can talk endlessly about examples, but the goal is universality: to connect the unconnected so they can “plug in” into to the modern era. For that reason, 5G implementation is our common business.

How can the impact of digital technologies be strengthened by high-speed connectivity such as 5G?

Thanks to digitization, we were able to introduce the public to remote work, education and medical consultation. It’s my strong belief that the roll-out of 5G is going to have positive impact on our day-to-day life in both private and professional spheres. As high-speed access allows us to use the latest existing solutions, I assume that 5G technology is a game-changer due to its low latency. It’s a key parameter that may introduce us to previously unknown solutions, such as connected and automated driving, VR and AR.

To achieve this objective, Poland has adjusted its legislation on electromagnetic fields (EMFs) to be ready for 5G roll-out, but at the same time we have been running campaigns on the vast benefits of applying new technologies to raise social awareness and address identified concerns.

I am very much aware that some administrations identify public concerns on wireless technologies, especially on social media. As government, it is our responsibility to address those concerns with the best means and for that reason I consider exchanging knowledge and experience exchange internationally to be of great value.

How can cooperation with the international community help advance national priorities for digital development?

I strongly believe that the foundation for the implementation of the SDGs is to make sure that we connect as many people to the Internet as possible.

Bridging the digital divide is one of the most important challenges we are facing both internally as well as globally.

The potential of the Internet is so universal that at this point, we cannot act further on its development in any other way then as an international community. The values that we prioritize as Poland can only stand if the Internet and related technologies address the same values to every Internet user. Therefore, we must collaborate internationally and very much appreciate ITU’s efforts. It is our common goal to keep the Internet transparent, safe and accessible but also open for innovation.I invite the international community to join us in efforts in advancing 5G by notifying each other of any new circumstances. Working together at the international level will enable us to more effectively counter activities that could hinder the development of modern IMT-2020.

I encourage everyone to follow ITU’s reliable Guidelines and Summaries but most importantly to participate with our easy-access events, especially in the upcoming ITU Regional Forum for Europe on 22 October 2020.

 

*Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of ITU.

Image credit: Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland

Note to reader: The Secretary of State will be speaking at the opening and closing ceremony of the ITU Regional Forum for Europe, to be held virtually on 22 and 23 October. Learn more here.