EU, EBRD and WBIF Bilateral donors finance the expansion of broadband in rural Serbia
The EU supported Rural Broadband Rollout project was launched in 2020 and enables Serbia to expand the existing fibre backbone to 300,000 households and 1,500 schools/public institutions in 1,800 remote settlements in rural areas, without access to a broadband network.
The investments, to be implemented in two phases, will create new economic opportunities and skills for local populations in less developed regions through increased access to connectivity and training, as well as advance a competitiveness-focused policy engagement in the telecommunications sector.
Phase 1 of the project is progressing and has already expanded the broadband network in Serbia’s rural areas. In December 2022, works started to connect a local school in a village in Šumadija (Central Serbia), in the presence of the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, and the Minister of Information and Telecommunications Mihajlo Jovanović, as well as the Ambassador of the EU to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret, and Matteo Colangeli, Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for the Western Balkans.
The investment is supported by a €34 million investment grant from the EU, a €118 million EBRD loan package, and a €1.7 million technical assistance grant by the WBIF bilateral donors.
Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret, Head of EU Delegation to Serbia, said: "Šumadija is a wonderful area with beautiful nature, and I am glad that the whole community gathers around important things. This is a wonderful project, as on one hand it connects people and on the other it concerns education. The internet changes our lives and the way we learn, have fun and work."
Matteo Colangeli, EBRD Director for the Western Balkans, said: “This project 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.