Information Society in a Post-Communist Environment

Enver Sehovic, Univ. of Zagreb

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 9, 1996


Following the development line which has its roots in private property, market economy, human rights and democracy, Western countries have adopted a consistent strategy for setting up what is usually called the Information Society. Simultaneously, after the breakdown of communism, a transition process had been launched and is now on the way in Eastern and Middle Europe. This process is more painful than it was expected, and the collapse of the old system - as the example of former Yugoslavia shows - may become a serious threat to stability in a much wider area.

Some major problems which have been inherited from the former regimes, and those which were generated afterwards, will be presented. The presentation is not intended to open a general discussion on post-communism; it should provide a framework for a more detailed analysis of the ways how information technologies and services could be used in such specific conditions to support a positive evolution of these societies.

The ultimate objectives are clear (privatised, restructured, modernised and market-driven economy, social stability, human rights, democracy, quality of life), but the paths which should be followed to meet these objectives are not so obvious. If Western countries are entering the Information Society from a socio-economic level which they have attained already, what are the practical implications of the inverted approach, that is, of using a higher-level philosophy (Information Society) to improve the underlying structure of the ex-socialist countries? What role may play the information technologies if these countries are to be brought, and not just linked, to the West? These are the key points and they will be discussed in terms of applicable development strategies, human resources, knowledge-based programs, and international co-operation, particularly academic co-operation.

The Croatian experience and some actions and programs that have been prepared, particularly in relation with Dubrovnik, are used as an illustration of the speaker's ideas.


Enver Sehovic, full professor at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, was born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1938. He received his B.Sc, M.Sc and PhD degrees from the University of Zagreb in 1962, 1966 and 1970, respectively. Being with the University since 1963, he began his academic career in the field of digital communications. His present interests are focused on computer networking and telematic services. Author and co-author of more than 120 papers and 2 books, Prof.Sehovic devoted a substantial part of his capacities to co-operation with the industry and with the telecom operator in Croatia.

In 1984 he was elected President of the Assembly of the University of Zagreb (a position which was equivalent to the one of University Presidents in the US), and was re-elected in 1986 for another 2-years term. A program of substantial development of the University, accompanied by massive investments in new buildings, equipment, student facilities and young researchers, was prepared and carried out during the 4 years of his office. Since 1987 he is Deputy Director-General of the Inter-University Centre for Postgraduate Studies in Dubrovnik (IUC), an institution which gathers some 200 universities from all over the world.

As one of the leading persons of the reformist group in previous regime, Prof.Sehovic has also left some trace on the political scene in Croatia. He fought for a substantial democratisation of the country and for its alignment with Western standards and values. He publicly opposed the Serbian President Milosevic at the time when very few people dared to do it in former Yugoslavia. In 1970 Prof.Sehovic won the highest Croatian award "Nikola Tesla" for achievements in technical sciences. His record is included in the Marquis "Who's who in the World" and in the UNESCO's directory of experts in informatics. He is also the designer of the Dubrovnik Web site: <>.


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