Trakia Digital Hub presented best practices from Plovdiv Municipality and Sofia Municipality at an innovation forum in the Romanian Parliament

The European Digital Innovation Hub Trakia (EDIH Trakia) was the only one among more than 150 digital hubs from all over Europe invited to share best practices from its work with public administrations in the cybersecurity sector during the Bucharest Digital Innovation Forum (DISB), held between 16 and 18 April this year at the Parliament building in Bucharest.

Representatives of the Institute of Public Administration and the Bulgarian Cyber Security Association also participated in the forum. DISB is organized by the National Institute of Informatics (ICI Bucharest), which is the most influential state scientific research organization in Romania working on issues of digitalization, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity.

During the presentation of Dr. Hristian Daskalov, Chairman of EDIH Trakia, within the panel discussion “The role of municipal administrations as a catalyst for the processes of integrating the protection of critical infrastructure and urban security and development”, presented as good practice the training conducted in 2024 in the field of cybersecurity for employees of municipal administrations and related companies in the South Central Region in 2023.

Plovdiv Municipality, which is an institutional member of the Digital Innovation Hub “Trakia”, was an active partner of EDIH Trakia during the first 16 months of the Hub’s activity under the project “Cyber4AllSTAR”, funded under the Europe Programme of the European Commission and co-funded under the national program “Research, Innovation, and Digitalisation for Smart Transformation” (RIDST).

At the beginning of 2024, at a meeting with the current leadership of the municipality in the person of the Mayor Mr. Kostadin Dimitrov, the partners from the local government, civil sector, and business, united in the framework of EDIH Trakia, reaffirmed their willingness and readiness for active dialogue, support and joint work on cybersecurity and digitalization.

Back in April 2023, when the opening event of the Cyber4AllSTAR project was held in Plovdiv, at the invitation of the project coordinator – Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE), one of Israel’s leading cyber security experts – Yuli Tsipis, a consultant of EDIH Trakia on the construction of a modern cyber-polygon for the needs of the South Central Region, was a guest. The representatives of Plovdiv Municipality discussed with the experts the opportunities for the implementation of new technologies and innovative solutions in the field of Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP).

In June 2023, again on the initiative of the coordinators of “Cyber4AllSTAR” from UPEE, the municipal administration in Plovdiv was visited by Mr. Oren Hadar, President of ISACA Israel. During his visit, the cybersecurity expert also met and talked with the head of the Regional Education Department. The “Youth Program” of the EDIH Trakia has been recognized by several secondary schools in the “city under the hills” as a useful tool for cyber hygiene education in secondary education.

In addition, many times during the year, with the support of Plovdiv University “St. Paisii Hilendarski”, the academic community in the city had the opportunity to exchange ideas and gain new knowledge in meetings with cyber experts from Israel and the United States, such as Mr. Oren Elimelech, advisor to the Government of Israel on cyber security and counter-terrorism, and Mr. Dan Shomon, business expert and advisor to President Obama, guests of Plovdiv again on the initiative of the UPEE – coordinator of “Cyber4AllSTAR”.

The work of Sofia Municipality (SM) on capacity building in the field of cybersecurity was presented in the light of its prepared applications under the national procedure of the Ministry of Regional Development for the implementation of municipal “Concepts for integrated territorial investments”.

EDIH Trakia participated as a partner of the SM with two projects to increase the knowledge and skills of stakeholders in the field of cybersecurity under the concept of “Digitalization, innovation, and entrepreneurship (startups) for the development and realization of skills of the future”, including projects for the development and utilization of the potential of young people through educational integration of vulnerable groups and creating conditions for entrepreneurship, talent discovery, and development through spaces for startups, innovation, including social innovation and digitalization.

The two cyber projects included in the SM’s concept for integrated territorial investments in digitalization, under the partnership of the Municipality with EDIH Trakia, are as follows:

“Interactive cybersecurity training programs to improve the skills of the future for youth – basic, advanced, for teachers/school teams and developing digital-media skills in schools, youth and/or education centers”;
“Connectivity with other clusters and regional innovation organizations such as digital and innovation hubs and the Enterprise Support Networks”.

One of the key results of the participation of the Bulgarian Digital Hub at the forum in Romania was the signing of a strategic cooperation agreement between EDIH Trakia and the hosts of the forum, ICI Bucharest, represented by the Director General of the Institute – Dr. Adrian Vevera. A similar cooperation agreement was signed by EDIH Trakia with the leading digital hub in Romania working on smart city development, e-medicine, and e-manufacturing – FIT EDIH.

During the forum in Bucharest a partnership meeting was held and the visit to Bulgaria of the leadership of the National Cyber Security Agency of Romania (NCSD), represented by its director – Mr. Dan Campean, who is in Bulgaria for a one-day visit on 23.04.2024 at the invitation of the UPEE and who already in 2023 signed an agreement for joint activities with EDIH Trakia, was confirmed.

During his visit to Bulgaria, the Director of NCSA Romania took part in the forum “New Horizons in Cybersecurity”, organized by the Bulgarian Union of Standard Setters (BSS) with the support of EDIH Trakia and the Bulgarian Cybersecurity Association. Mr. Dan Campean’s program for the day included an institutional meeting with representatives from the Bulgarian Ministry of eGovernment and the National Cyber Security Coordination Centre (NCSCC).

The role of standardization experts is key in the process of enhancing cyber security in Bulgaria and Romania, as the flagship initiative that EDIH Trakia is working on with its partners from the National Cyber Security Agency of Romania and the Romanian National Institute of Informatics (ICI Bucharest) focuses on the regional application of the EU Framework for Cyber Security Certification, for which the European Network and Information Security Association (ENISA) is the lead country.

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