The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved last week the Kosovo Digital Economy (KODE) Project to increase access to better high-speed broadband services and online knowledge sources, services, and labor markets for the people of Kosovo. The loan for the project is in the amount of € 20,700,000 (US$ 25 million equivalent).
“The project will have a broad range of benefits for people in Kosovo, connecting them to information, services, and, jobs. By developing and strengthening Kosovo’s digital infrastructure, this project will deepen Kosovo’s connections to the global economy, which is critical for growth and development throughout the country,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Kosovo.
Today, only a limited number of households, businesses, and institutions in Kosovo have access to high-speed broadband, which can assist in public service delivery, provide opportunities for skills acquisition, and generate income through online work. Many schools lack access to broadband, relying instead on low-speed internet connections or remaining unconnected – which limits their ability to shape the human capital required for a knowledge economy. Furthermore, universities and colleges in Kosovo are too poorly interconnected, making it nearly impossible to engage in knowledge exchange or research collaboration with international partners.
Similarly, not all health centers are connected to high-speed digital infrastructure, preventing them from expanding medical service coverage to more people, especially in rural and isolated areas. This limits their ability to expand their service portfolio or use e-health applications. Mobile broadband services have also been slow to develop, limiting innovation in mobile-based digital services.
However, Kosovo has embraced digital transformation by working to close digital infrastructure gaps and develop globally competitive human capital.
„The KODE project builds on the already functioning national initiatives that were developed in close collaboration between the Government and the World Bank – like a series of government-led rural broadband pilots – which trigger private capital investments into the deployment of broadband infrastructure,” said Natalija Gelvanovska-Garcia, Task Team Leader for the Project. “Plus, the KODE will scale-up online work trainings, targeting un-and-underemployed young people with a focus on women, to help unleash beneficiaries’ access to more, better, and more inclusive jobs,“ added Rhedon Begolli, Co-Task Team Leader.
Inhabitants of some of the underserved rural areas, healthcare institutions, and primary and secondary schools will benefit from the project through access to high-speed broadband internet and a digital awareness initiative. Mobile network operators and their customers will also benefit from higher-quality mobile services, while under/unemployed youth will have access to an online work training program. Students, researchers, and staff of higher education institutions will benefit too, as the project will also support access to the pan-European data network GÉANT.
The project is financed with a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank Group. IDA credits are provided on concessional terms with zero or very low interest charge and long repayment periods. The financing for this project has a maturity of 25 years, including a 5-year grace period. The project will be implemented over five years by Kosovo’s Ministry of Economic Development, which guides and coordinates ICT sector development and all major Digital Economy initiatives in the country.
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