Live on Emerging Europe: Digitalisation and progress in CEE

We are living through a period marked by major economic, societal and technological changes. Businesses across Central and Eastern Europe are facing high energy costs, inflation and supply chain disruption.  

And yet while these changes represent a challenge, they also offer opportunities, creating unique opportunities for growth, agility and resilience. 

A recent edition of Live on Emerging Europe set out to identify some of these opportunities by focusing on the role that digitalisation will play in strengthening growth across the region. Emerging Europe’s Andrew Wrobel was joined by Michelle Simmons, General Manager, CEE Multi Country Region at Microsoft, and Mariusz Chudy, Technology Alliances Leader at PwC Central and Eastern Europe. 

Topics discussed include where emerging Europe is now as far as growth prospects are concerned, what is hindering that growth, and how we can facilitate more progress. 

The chat also looked at what can – or must – businesses do differently to get through and be ready to succeed in the future. The World Economic Forum estimates that 70 per cent of new economic value in the next 10 years will come from digital business models, while the International Data Corporation (IDC) says that by end of 2026, data-led organisations will generate over 25 per cent of revenue from digital products, services and experiences.  

There are plenty of positive examples in the region.  

In Poland, the newly launched Żabka Nano stores use Smart Store Analytics to take shopping convenience to the next level. A seamless walk in, walk out approach to food shopping, with no checkout lines, clerks, or cash — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With nearly 50 Nano stores already launched, Żabka has sold close to two million products using autonomous technology over the last year.   

This is just one example of how in a world of challenges, proper implementation of digital technology is a critical means of converting crisis into opportunity – something that became all-too apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. This also aligns with the findings of PwC’s recent CEO Survey, in which 45 per cent of chief executives in our region said they will need to transform their operations or risk going out of business within the next ten years. 

The discussion then moved on to what sort of impact digitisation can have on government, society and the economy. The public sector is not just a bit part in this innovation mix – it is a major catalyst, encouraging private-sector digital infrastructure investment and advancing a country’s technical skills base. 

In Estonia, the Burokratt virtual assistant helps citizens use speedy and efficient digital public services for several aspects of their lives. Now the team behind it is working with partners like Microsoft to drive open-source development, encouraging collaboration between private companies, public sector and even the general public. 

Sustainability is another issue discussed – one that is top of mind for policy-makers and business leaders across CEE. 

Digital technology can play a vital role here, helping organisations to cut costs and emissions by lowering energy consumption, reducing travel, using resources more efficiently and making smarter decisions informed by data.   

Finally, talent is identified as being at the heart of any discussion about the future of our region. Business leaders in have listed potential shortages of labour and skills as chief among threats to their businesses in our CEO surveys for several years now.  

As such, with current concerns about inflation, geopolitical turmoil and the economic downturn, looking after employees should be an even more pressing issue than ever before. Macroeconomists indicate that the coming slowdown will not necessarily translate into a significant increase in unemployment.  

This news may please employees, and should also prompt employers to act to invest in employees and build a welcoming workplace for all. 

This article is part of Digital Future of CEE, a regional discussion series, powered by Emerging Europe, Microsoft and PwC.

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