The PUPIN CHALLENGE project officially started on December 3, 2021. with international panel discussion – Tailor-made education for young people. The successful panel discussion confirmed the broad support for the project and the participants’ determination to be a part of it.
We contacted high schools and had a great response and interest in the competition. For the planned competition on December 4th and 5th 2021. 6 teams were registered. Various factors, primarily epidemiological, have postponed the competition for January 29th and 30th, 2022.
In communication with the subject teachers / mentors, we did some add-ons to our activities, such as information and planned education for future participants. We believe that there will be more teams and schools. The plan is for the competition in Pančevo to be the first in a row, and next year, in addition to the one that has been postponed, there will be a competition in June in Vršac, and in December, bigger one, again in Pančevo.
In addition to the support of panel participants and their organizations, the Ministry of Education, RDA South Banat, Vojvodina ICT Cluster, Deloitte Serbia, Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Belgrade, high schools, businesses and experts also supported this project.
The International Panel – Education Tailored to Youth, had seven participants. The hosts of the gathering were the Director of the Centre Dragoljub Cucić, who addressed via video and the coordinator of Pupin’s Challenge – Vladislav Petkovic and the moderator of this panel.
The first to address was Vladimir Pandurov – a long-time expert in EU project financing, presenting the possibility of financing such a complex project and its compliance with EU development policy and the right time to launch such a project. Also, EU initiatives in the circular / green economy that we (the project) can fit into. We talked about cross-border cooperation and the instrument of financing Interreg – IPA CBC and the importance of local, provincial and national support.
Kosmin Mirisan – expert in ICT development and placement of EU funds shared with us his rich experience (development of 250+ start-up companies) in creating IT ecosystems from the perspective of entrepreneurs, development agencies, state and local governments and the symbiosis between them. We talked about the importance of creating relevant databases and animating technology companies. Building infrastructure and information ecosystem. The importance of a systematic approach and real development through the symbiosis of all sectors. Transformation of the public sector, setting standards and the constant problem of training and application of these standards and database connectivity. Public sector constraints.
The activities of the faculties were discussed by Dušan Barać – Vice Dean for Digitization of the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, University of Belgrade. He pointed out the lack of people with the skills and knowledge to implement similar ideas, such as Pupin’s Challenge. He shared the fact that according to certain research, only in the country of Serbia, if 10,000 IT experts were to be generated annually, everyone would find a job. It is always a problem for educational institutions to define priorities and respond to the pressure of the state and the economy and find a balance between mass production and the quality of students and quality mapping of the needs of the economy. As a result of all that, there was a transformation of basic studies and the establishment of a new study plan and program at FON from the school year 2022/2023. He believes that the feedback between educational institutions, the economy and the state has only 30% of the potential. The key thing is to create a network, prepare students and a real example of dual education set in the system of organizing the whole system. He praised the innovative idea of improving the already existing system of work with talented children and creating a system of talent management with a wider base of school children. The message is that in this way, preconditions are created and the entire ecosystem, for nurturing and encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit among young people. An example of the lack of this is the prevailing situation in the ICT sector in Serbia, where most of the companies are services and outsourcing and there are very few examples of own products and innovations. Of key importance is the topicality of the knowledge that is taught in educational institutions and the interoperability of all of us, that’s something that is generally lacking.
The business sector in this discussion was represented by Dragan Manojlov – Senior Manager of the consulting company Delloite Serbia, who oversees the technology sector (SAP included), and one of in charge for the sales of services. It should be noted that Delloite in Serbia originated from an auditing company and globally they are one of the two largest technology companies in the world. The problem is in employment. The big difference between their expectations and the real contribution to the business. There is an evident gap between the economy and education in Serbia, which needs to be bridged, and we are one of the global leaders who can reduce that gap, based on experience and contributing to the development of the Republic of Serbia.
Examples in the economy are that professors place some of their tools and products and local solutions that get a job and not the big ones as SAP. There is no value-added to the company, only a reflected operational situation in the company. There is a big difference between the salaries of consultants here and abroad. There is a constant shortage of professionals who would be trained and gain more value in the market. Currently, IoT (Internet of Things) solutions have the greatest potential in the market. One of the examples is the smart city – smart city solutions that Deloitte successfully implements in the world and as an example is one such solution that was implemented in the city of Buenos Aires.
The largest IoT hub we sponsor is in Germany, there is an excellent cooperation with universities present. As we are a profit-oriented company, in return we have the best students employed by Deloitte, which is the plan also for Serbia. We have recognized this type of project, such as PUPIN’S CHALLENGE, as a potential that we support and hope that it will achieve its optimum in the environment in which it operates.
The next participant in the panel was Žarko Dakić – City of Pančevo, member of the City Council for Local Government and Information Technology. He said that, after taking over the function of councillor in the City of Pančevo, with an analysis in his department, he concluded that the Regional Centre for Talents Mihajlo Pupin has the greatest potential for development. The centre was expanded with the Department of Applied Cybernetics Robotics and named after Miodrag Vukobratović, our great scientist in the field of human robotics. As the Centre has a successful long-term cooperation with the organization Cirkuliranje, Mr. Cucić recognized the great possibilities of joining forces, and then the cooperation with that organization and Vladislav Petkovic, its representative, began. In cooperation with the Regional Development Agency of South Banat, we managed to provide additional equipment and the necessary minimum conditions for the start of the Pupin Challenge project.
The current distribution and reproduction of knowledge in school institutions has a linear character, with a lot of knowledge that has not been updated, so that the Centre is ideal for establishing new standards in knowledge. The new programs will enable school children to meet the applied informatics in the new model of functioning, so that they can more easily decide on their own future model of education. There are agendas that are already being implemented, such as Industry 5.0 in the EU and Japan, Made in China 2025 in China, and Cybernetics 3.0 in Russia, which represent new standards and directions of development. One of the conclusions was that the state lacks experts who will understand the proper implementation of technology and standards, for it all to work. He presented his own initiatives applying just-in-time standards and local networking. The intention of all these activities is to provide school children with a broader knowledge base and not just a narrow specialization, so that they can respond to future challenges in life. He discussed the topic of overcoming the current limitations in the functioning of local self-government. He pointed out that great global events in society represent the beginning of a period of change, as the XX century begins after the First World War, as well as the XXI century begins with the Covid 19 pandemic, some would say.
It was stated that the education of young people is underway, with or without us, and in order to ensure natural and optimal growth and development of society, the laws and the system of the entire environment must be modernized, because it is based on standards set some 20 years before.
Vladimir Milenković – MSc of Computer Science, Cambridge College, joined the discussion, on the topic of youth awareness in terms of technology and its use and the level of understanding of the same. Naturally, today’s children feel natural in today’s information society. Whether they will be just users or will be more involved is debatable. According to Milenković, the trend is that children today are not so interested in what is “behind” the program, instead they are only users of what is offered and guided by global trends.
Milenković is someone who graduated from the Mathematical Gymnasium in Belgrade before college, and has so far participated and won awards at many world competitions in mathematics and informatics, and he emphasizes that as a very positive experience in his own development. He mentioned that it is extremely important to include companies that will give participants a step-by-step insight through the form of the competition, what is needed from the knowledge of the jobs they offer.
He pointed out that digitization in the UK may have taken on some of the characteristics of exaggeration and that, based on case studies, he advocated a step-by-step process of digitization. that is the case on a global scale.
There is a gap between what is taught in colleges and what a student will do after graduation. It also seems to Britain that there is not enough learning of practical knowledge for the education system. He said that they had a lot of career fairs where big technology companies came, but none of them provided more specific information about what someone will do in that company.
Milenković sees himself in Serbia primarily for private reasons and the possibility of good employment in the IT industry and still being at home. For him, there is a greater orientation towards industry than work in education, because he can contribute, and that will be visible more quickly and in education for a much longer period. Most Cambridge colleagues go into industry rather than science, without going into what is a better choice
The good thing about his education is that they did not learn so much practical knowledge at the faculty, but they got an excellent base, which gives them the opportunity to be able to quickly adopt and apply knowledge from practice.
The representative of the new generation of information society, we were joined by Gabriel Gašpar – representative of the ICT sector from Romania. He presented his direct experience, primarily in e-commerce, with much experience in developing online payments and increasing interoperability. He points out that in Romania, the private sector is very organized, unlike the state sector, and it is a great advantage that they are in the EU single market. Due to the lack of experts in the public sector, there is a present misunderstanding with the private sector. Universities have development centres, but they do not have enough funds and people, and everything remains on a theoretical level.
Customers want a product and don’t know how to use it. New times have improved the work of courier services and payment services. There has been more connectivity using APIs and adequate database usage. He shared with us work with a couple of banks and work on open-source e-commerce solutions, as well as work on plug-ins that are used and developed in the work of courier services.
He is self-taught about the knowledge he now uses, which are several programming languages, open data concepts, back-end and front-end frameworks and connecting all the knowledge in practical application for a client. He points out that he had a very good mentor, thanks to whom he is now in the entrepreneurial sector.
He wants to share this approach with others and is satisfied that he can do it through the cooperation he achieves in CIRKULIRANJE, where it is one of the principles of functioning, as well as the improvement of cooperation in the region.
Barać pointed out that according to the data from 2019, only 5-6% of the total payment at the shops is by card, unlike in Romania, where the percentage is much higher. Banks do not educate users enough; exchange services have not improved and there is some resistance in introducing greater connectivity.
It seems that there is a difference in the level of development of the e-commerce market of Serbia and Romania, regardless of various initiatives and investments in the market itself.
Panel Conclusions & Messages
Kosmin pointed out that we should try to improve our environment every day. He pointed out that the funds exist, but we must be very specific with the activities, so that we can be financed. The system conceived by Pupin’s Challenge is precisely the type that can be easily quantified and give measurable results and thus be financed by public and private entities.
We opened a lot of new topics and that this panel exceeded the expectations of the participants themselves. In the future, we will specify some of the topics and organize future activities accordingly, such as this panel. All participants are very satisfied with the discussion and presented their perspectives on the topics that were covered. They welcome an initiative like this and this type of communication with the expectation that there will be more of it in the future because it is for the benefit of all participants.
The panel established two-way communication among participants and as a result provided new ideas and opportunities for networking and organizing. This type of communication is planned to be improved and set as a standard, which in cooperation with high schools will give an interactive approach and encourage competition to develop, and thus the entire ecosystem. We want to be producers and exporters of knowledge and not importers, and for that we need concrete knowledge from science that this system can provide.
CIRKULIRANJE and the CENTRE accept and apply new technological standards, and at the same time nurture culture and freedom of expression in terms of intercultural dialogue. This cooperation has created a space where, in cooperation with others, we can build a platform of Pupin’s Challenge that can respond to constant changes in the environment and be free in its work with third parties.
We plan not to limit ourselves to informatics. Today, the term Information and Communication Technologies does not have these classic, rigid limitations, but can be applied to almost all aspects of life and work.
Everyone agrees that projects like this are sparks and drivers of change in the environment.
We are expecting a film that is currently in production about this panel in the coming period.