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News / Boosting digital development of the Western Balkans
A donor coordination meeting regarding the Western Balkans Common Regional Market and the Regional Digital Area was conducted as part of the Investing in Digitalization in the Western Balkans conference on March 28 in Sarajevo. The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the European Investment Bank (EIB) jointly organised the event, which was attended by regional ministers responsible for the digital sector, other high-ranking government officials, local and international experts in digital projects, significant donors, international financial institutions, and Western Balkan business representatives.
While sharing key success stories of digitalisation in the Western Balkans, they agreed on the importance of boosting successful digitalisation models in the area of soft and hard infrastructure in the private and public sector. Addressing infrastructural and financial gaps in the digital infrastructure sector, creating a Regional Digital Area and digital ecosystems, and increasing financing opportunities for the digitalisation of small businesses were identified as the key priorities going forward.
During the first part of the conference, the EBRD and the EIB presented selected investment projects and initiatives in the area of digital transformation. To date, the EBRD has invested over €562 million in the information technologies and communications sectors of the six Western Balkans economies. Separately, the EBRD is now developing specialised financing programmes for digitalisation, the first of which — the €40 million GoDigital credit line in partnership with the European Union — was launched last year in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Technical cooperation included single access points for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Albania and Montenegro. Hundreds of small businesses received advisory services on digitalisation.
Since 2020 alone, the EIB has provided €200 million for digital projects in the Western Balkans to help companies digitalise, improve the capacity, coverage and quality of the 4G network and roll out 5G mobile services, and increase digital capacities and skills in over 1 500 schools. In 2022, our investments helped boost new digital business models, connect 4 million households to fibre broadband and enable 6.6 million subscriptions for 5G services globally.
Photo credits: EIB
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