When smaller businesses think about digitalising their business activities, economic development promoters can be helpful advisers. But to provide support, they need to be knowledgeable and aware of latest technological trends. The recent 1st Capacity Building Seminar realised in the framework of the SKILLS+ project meant to provide economic development promoters the necessary insights. The event took place at Zadar, Croatia, and was attended by 34 individuals representing ten different European countries. Besides project partners, several members of stakeholder support groups from the participating territories attended the event.

The seminar started off with presentations on the European Union’s digital agenda and Croatia’s corresponding eCroatia strategy. Participants were impressed by the country’s efforts to bring public data sets online (open data) and to provide more and more government services online via an e-citizens’ portal. Soon, dedicated services for businesses will also be available on the internet, expected to make a significant contribution to trigger increased internet use throughout the Croatian business world. HAKOM, the Croatian regulatory agency for telecommunications, showed how broadband access is expected to improve in years to come and how local public authorities can use funding provided by the national government to take action where network providers won’t have a commercial interest to finance the infrastructure.

The second part of the seminar was dedicated to good practices collected by the SKILLS+ partners. While the eTrøndelag programme showed how a local public authority can play a leading role to promote digitalisation in all spheres of activities, the Latvian IT Cluster’s promotional activities have proven to be successful tools to increase the demand for business-to-business ICT services. Other examples were highlighted in the discussions following the presentations given. Seminar participants also received an outlook how the further digitalisation, often labelled as “Internet of Things” or “Industry 4.0” are expected to revolutionise the ways businesses work and sell their products and services. For businesses and public administrators alike, challenges will include to create online content (and not be mere consumers) and to engage in more public-private partnerships.

The SKILLS+ partnership will conduct two further capacity building seminars on 29 November 2016 at Györ, Hungary, and on 21 March 2017 at Riga, Latvia.