EBRD, EU finance expansion of broadband in rural Serbia

By Bojana Vlajcic

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  • Broadband infrastructure to reach more than 150,000 households and 500 schools
  • Investment financed with €118 million EBRD loan and €33 million EU grant
  • EBRD’s total investment in Serbia to approach €8 billion by end of 2022

The project to expand the broadband network in Serbia’s rural areas is progressing. Sunday saw the start of work to connect a local school in a village in Central Serbia, in the presence of Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Minister of Information and Telecommunications Mihajlo Jovanovic, Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Director for the Western Balkans Matteo Colangeli.

Around 150,000 households and 500 schools and public institutions will gain access to fast broadband thanks to a government digitalisation initiative supported by the EBRD, the EU and bilateral donors under the umbrella of the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF).

The project envisages even more households being connected in its second phase.

The investment is being supported by €118 million in EBRD loans and a €33 million investment grant from the EU. In addition, bilateral donors to the WBIF have extended a €1.7 million grant for technical assistance, which has allowed Serbia to finance the design and construction of fibre broadband infrastructure in its rural regions.

Matteo Colangeli, EBRD Director for the Western Balkans, said: “This programme is about building economic opportunities in rural areas. We are very pleased with the partnership with the Serbian government, the EU and telecoms operators to bring fast internet access to smaller communities around the country. Digitalisation is a core priority for the EBRD in Serbia, which we will pursue through investing in infrastructure, supporting e-government and enabling greater access to finance and skills for the private sector.”

The project is part of Serbia’s initiative to promote digitalisation as a driver of economic growth and to position the country as an information technology (IT) development hub. It addresses the existing rural-urban digital divide and will ensure equality of opportunity and long-term, sustainable growth in underserved rural regions.

In addition, the high-speed broadband rollout will support the adoption of e-government services, which have been flagged as a top-priority goal by the Serbian government.

The projects build on several years of EBRD policy engagement to support the Serbian government in accelerating the rollout of affordable, high-capacity digital infrastructure to underserved areas.

The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Serbia, investing more than €7.7 billion in the country to date. Its focus in Serbia is on private-sector development, improving public utilities and facilitating the country's transition to a green economy.

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