FEATURE STORY November 26, 2018

Villages in Kosovo Start Enjoying High-Speed Internet, With World Bank Support

Image

The Anton Çetta, which serves more than 200 area children, is one of the public rural schools in Kosovo that has recently been connected to broadband internet.

 


Highlights

  • Over 60,000 rural inhabitants across Kosovo are expected to get high-speed broadband by 2023 under a new World Bank project.
  • 14 pilot projects are providing broadband internet to households; schools and hospitals are connecting for free.
  • The project helps close internet infrastructure gaps in the country by providing access to information and services for people in rural areas.

When a team of workers were digging trenches and laying fiber cables along the main road linking a group of villages in May 2018, Gjovalin Loshi, a medical technician at a small, general practice facility on the outskirts Pjetershtan, was surprised to hear that his health facility would soon be connected to free and fast internet.

“I could not believe it when they told me they would give us free internet, but it’s true,” says the visibly-happy Loshi, who now uses the internet to communicate - free of charge - with area patients and colleagues in a nearby health center.

Image
Medical technician Gjovalin Loshi at the health facility in the village of Pjetershtan uses high-speed internet to talk free of charge with patients in the area and his colleagues in the larger health care center nearby.

In addition to this small health facility, a nearby school, which serves more than 200 students, was also recently connected to free broadband internet, making Dukagjin Markaj, the Principal of the Anton Cetta school, similarly happy with the gift.

“Not having internet is a major disaster, no work can be done,” says Markaj.


"This investment will position Kosovo well to reap the benefits of digital opportunities. "
Agim Kukaj
Head of the ICT Department, Ministry of Economic Development

He notes a big difference in internet reliability between the current broadband connection and the previous connection, which was done with an antenna. His colleague, Albane Jaka, a teacher of biology and chemistry - who also happens to be the education quality assurance coordinator for the school - explains the importance of this improved internet connection for the school.

“We can now provide data to the monitoring system at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in the capital, Pristina at the beginning of the year on new students and then update this periodically on their progress,” says Jaka.

“We also receive electronic reports and information on training opportunities from the Municipal Education Department, and we use the internet to prepare presentation material for our classes,” she adds.

This school and the medical center, along with a few hundred private households in the three villages of Pjetershtan, Dol and Kusar, were connected to broadband internet by a private company as part of a public private partnership pilot initiative by the Ministry of Economic Development of Kosovo. Under the scheme, the private sector is incentivized by public co-investment to deploy a high-speed network, allowing access for every household in a pilot location.

“The work was done at an international standard. The cables were laid in underground pipes and connections were installed in every household in the area,” assures Principal Markaj.

“We are very satisfied, for 20 euros per month we get cable TV and a good internet connection,” says Dede Gjini, a local bus driver - who explains that he only uses the internet for free phone calls but his children, who are in college and at school, use the internet more.

The pilot in Gjakova, in western Kosovo, is one of seven broadband expansion pilot projects that were completed this year, while an additional seven pilot projects remain under implementation. The areas chosen for the pilots – covering 40 villages with over 2,700 households, 34 schools and 16 health institutions - are located throughout the country and were chosen because there were more than 100 households that do not have access to broadband telecom infrastructure in each of them.

Closing the digital infrastructure gap, coupled with developing competitive human capital in the digital economy, remain key priority areas for the Government of Kosovo.

Image
Anton Çetta school is now connected to high-speed fiber cable internet for free for the next five years, as part of a public-private partnership pilot initiative. In this photo: Principal of Anton Çetta school, Mr. Dukagjin Markaj.


With support by the World Bank, these pilot projects are now being scaled-up. Under the Kosovo Digital Economy (KODE) project, approved in July 2018 by the World Bank Board of Directors, more than 200 villages around Kosovo are expected to obtain high-speed broadband by 2023 - with schools and hospitals connecting free-of-charge for five years. It is projected that over 60,000 rural inhabitants will benefit from this intervention.

“In cooperation with the World Bank, we have conducted a series of studies to learn the current situation regarding broadband infrastructure in Kosovo, from the technological, financial and business aspects,” explains the head of the ICT Department at the Ministry of Economic Development, Agim Kukaj.

“This investment will position Kosovo well to reap the benefits of digital opportunities. More people, including those living in under-served rural areas, will have access to labor markets, new sources of knowledge, and better public services,” adds Kukaj.

World Bank Country Manager for Kosovo, Marco Mantovanelli, concurs.

“The project will deepen Kosovo’s connections to the global economy, which is critical for growth and development throughout the country.”

In addition to closing broadband infrastructure gaps in rural areas, the project will facilitate more access to knowledge, information, and services among Kosovars by supporting the development of a National Research and Education Network (NREN) and a Digital Awareness Program, specifically targeting households in areas where fixed broadband connectivity will be deployed for the first time through the project.

Colleges and universities will also get a major boost to their connectivity by linking to GÉANT - a network that connecs Europe’s national research and education networking organizations via a highly resilient, pan-European broadband backbone.

The project will also establish a Youth Online and Upward Program, which aims to train 2,000 young men and women in front-end web development, graphic design, and search engine optimization. It is expected that unemployed and underemployed youth - many from rural areas - could earn money through online freelance activities and even obtain full-time jobs for the first time, with modest investment in training.

The KODE project is financed with a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank Group, on concessional terms. The financing for this project has a maturity of 25 years, including a 5-year grace period.



Api
Api