Here’s what happened in the first half of July with technology, the internet, and security – we’re reviewing the news from July 1-12, 2023.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency, has announced the launch of a new tool – a dashboard for tracking the progress of countries in improving communications. According to the dashboard data, Belarus significantly lags behind Lithuania in terms of broadband access, while other indicators for both countries are approximately at the same level.
From July 1, 2023, Lukashenko has tightened conditions for media operations in the country by signing corresponding amendments to the law. The amendments allow the restriction of the activities of foreign media in case of their ‘unfriendly actions’, as well as expanding the grounds for canceling state registration of local media and access to internet resources. In addition to this, the law introduces new requirements for owners of internet resources that distribute television and radio media products. The press service message asserts that the innovations are aimed at protecting national interests and expanding capabilities to respond to unfriendly actions against Belarus.
The amended media law comes into force; it was published on the National Legal Portal on the morning of July 6.
The document introduces a new article – on retaliatory measures against foreign media, internet resources, and journalists from these publications.
Now, if a Belarusian media outlet is banned abroad, the media of that country may be banned in Belarus as a retaliatory measure, its journalists – stripped of accreditation, and internet resources – blocked.
Belarus intends to introduce restrictions on cryptocurrency transactions between individuals. It is expected that soon such transactions will only be possible through the High-Tech Park exchanges.
The Upper House of Representatives of Belarus highlights the importance of direct communication with citizens through mechanisms such as direct phone lines. Statistical data serve as proof of the effectiveness of these methods and the high public interest in them. During a recent session of direct telephone communication, 125 thousand call attempts were registered, according to Beltelecom data, indicating a strong demand for dialogue with the authorities on the part of citizens.
The share of ICT in Belarus’ GDP has become one of the largest in Europe, but the sector has faced significant job losses
A report by the German Economic Team, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Climate, indicates that in 2021 the information and communication sector of Belarus reached 7.4% of the country’s GDP, comparable to Estonia and surpassing all other neighboring countries. This makes it one of the leading in Europe by this indicator.
In 2021, the Belarusian ICT sector employed 144,300 people, with an average gross salary of 1,535 euros, representing 319% of the average wage in the country’s economy. ICT service exports amounted to 2.7 billion euros, which equals 4.7% of the country’s GDP.
However, despite previous success, in 2022 the sector shrank for the first time by 2.2%. According to data from the German Economic Team, from March to December 2022, IT companies of all sizes lost 17,200 employees, which represents about 20% of the total number of employees in the industry.
Creation of a media holding of the Union State:
A plan to create a unified media company that will promote the Union State’s information agenda in Belarus and Russia has been agreed upon by the ministries of both countries. The initiator of the holding’s creation was Lukashenko, the leader of the current regime, emphasizing the necessity of this step for the “battle for minds and hearts”.
- Data leak from the online store buslik.by: Information of 220,000 users was put up for sale.
- Cyberattack on the Belarusian State University: Initially, the attack was not recognized, however, a few days later information about the hack was confirmed.
- Data leak from the online store “Island of Cleanliness and Taste”: The stolen database contains information about 730,000 users.
- Possible consequences of personal data leaks from Belarusian stores: Experts are discussing the risks and consequences of such incidents.
- Increase in the number of surveillance cameras in Minsk: The Chairman of Minsk City Executive Committee and the Head of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate agreed on the installation of additional cameras, primarily at voting sites for the upcoming elections.
Repressions and blockings
- Blocking of Ukrainian media in Belarus: The Prosecutor General’s Office explained that extremist materials and unreliable information were posted on the blocked sites.
- Trial of a resident of Pruzhany for “insulting a government official” on VK: The man deleted his account, however, his data was provided to the security forces.
- Arrest of the former assistant to a Minsk judge: She is accused of leaking personal data.
- Arrest of a specialist from “Belgazprombank” for participation in protests and comments on Telegram: He is accused of “systematically inciting hatred on the Internet”.
- The project “Budzma” and the regional media “Volnae Hlybokae” are recognized as “extremist materials”: Such decisions were made by the courts of the Leninsky district of Minsk, the Hlybokae district, and the Chyhunachny district of Vitebsk.