Woman to the fore in fast evolving ICT services in Kosovo | WeBalkans | EU Projects in the Western Balkans

Woman to the fore in fast evolving ICT services in Kosovo

Closing the digital gender gap: more female representation in ICT is essential to this export-dominated sector.


The Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Kosovo is changing fast, mainly due to ever-increasing demand and the solutions that companies are providing. High levels of internet usage are yielding results for Kosovo, especially for its youth and emerging (ICT) businesses.

Eurostat reported in 2021 that 96% of the Kosovan population aged 16-74 had used the internet in the preceding three months, meaning that Kosovo ranks top in the region for internet use, and even few points higher than the European Union average. This context is a pre-condition for advancing the digital transformation of many services in society, but not necessarily only in Kosovo. Several companies based in and around the capital Pristina are providing ICT services for Europe and North America remotely. Indeed, some of them have no domestic clients at all, a feature reflected in a study by the ICT Association, STIKK, which confirms that over 90% of these services are exports.

“ICT was once considered a man’s job, but that is changing fast.”

Iliriana Ibraj, LinkPlus

Closing the digital gender gap

One effect of its welcomed growth is that it is offering jobs in an unemployment-stricken society, and that these jobs are stopping the emigration of Kosovo’s young demographic. The sector is also becoming more and more inclusive.

Women are finding themselves at the core of the sector, from technical positions in developing, to management and policy-making in ICT. One example is Iliriana Ibraj, who leads the business growth section of LinkPlus, one of the pioneer companies which has been exporting services for almost a decade.

“ICT was once considered a man’s job, but that is changing fast,” says Ibraj, who adds that she feels good being in the sector to be able to provide that different perspective. Women make up more than one third of her business’ total of 50 employees. “The increasing number of women in IT changes the mindset and stereotypes in the workplace but also in relation to clients where a perspective that doesn’t come from men can make a difference.”

The opportunities to change the ratio of girls participating in the sector start from education, where STEM (Science Technology Energy and Mathematics) subjects are experiencing a comeback as professions with employment potential. In addition to traditional universities, there are innovation centres, private initiatives, and international donors bringing STEM education to youth. Among them is the EU-funded project which supports the competitiveness of Kosovo’s ICT sector and has trained about 100 teachers and 1,000 students. The majority of the participants have been certified in web development, cyber security, and the programming languages required in the posts that ICT recruiters are looking to fill.

The other component where the project is working with the sector is to strengthen connections with companies based in the European Union.

“One of our strategies for growth comes from our belief that we can expand together with future partners within the EU.”

Iliriana Ibraj, LinkPlus

ICT eliminates borders

Kosovo-based companies’ most popular export services include IT consulting, web design development, mobile solutions, and e-commerce. LinkPlus offers these services to clients operating within the EU but also to those across North American markets. The future looks bright for the company which is looking into cooperation with companies identified in recent business-to-business meetings.

“One of our strategies for growth comes from our belief that we can expand together with future partners within the EU,” she explains. “We’ve established initial contacts, with focus on sectors that we specialised in, and now we know more about the market and key players.” She says she is pleased with the initial introductions to present Kosovo’s investment potential, under which she includes Kosovo’s youth, climate for doing business, proximity to the EU, use of the euro as a currency, and the friendly relationships with clients which she sees as defining features of her society.

She said that she is also engaged in improving the position of women as a personal mission and uses the “DigiWomen” initiative, where she serves as a board member, as one platform joining up women in IT that can work as a role model. “The most important thing if we want to achieve gender equality is to lead by example in inspiring new generations: the change has to come from ourselves to make societies better.”

About the project

The overall objective of the EU Support for the Competitiveness of Kosovo’s ICT Sector project is to enhance the competitiveness of Kosovo’s digital and traditional businesses by supporting the expansion of Kosovo’s ICT sector, leading to growth and new job creation.

The project also aims to bridge the digital and business skills gap in a sustainable manner that meets the needs of the market and increases the competitiveness of Kosovo’s digital and t­­raditional businesses and to increase the export of Kosovan ICT businesses, and traditional businesses through the use of ICT.

Photo credits: Kosovo ICT Support, LinkPlus

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