How broadband fuels growth in Serbia: Q&A with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic

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ITU News recently connected with Ana Brnabic, Prime Minister of Serbia, to learn how she is working towards the future of cooperation on Broadband Digital Inclusion and Innovation both on a national and international level – and what role ITU is playing to support this vision.

What is the status of broadband development in Serbia?

The telecommunication market in Serbia is highly competitive and has triggered a race between providers seeking to reach users. This practice has resulted in high levels of 4G coverage, now reaching more than 99.5% of households with at least one mobile provider, and most of them with all three. With regard to fixed broadband, two-thirds of households have access to next-generation broadband. Only 5% of households, mostly in remote rural areas, lack the access to fixed broadband.

These figures have helped place Serbia as a leader in the region and ahead of some European Union countries, but the work is not over yet. We will continue to push and to make improvements to achieve an inclusive Gigabit Society by 2025

Why does the Government believe in broadband development and its impact for economic growth?

Serbia has a strong digital society. Ultrafast digital transformation is rapidly changing our economy.

The ICT sector is contributing 5.3% to our GDP, and we are seeing steady growth year after year.

At the same time, ICT exports are the highest in the region, growing by at least 20% annually. Our Nordeus, for example, is one of the world’s leading mobile gaming developers and publishers, while SevenBridges is one of the leading genetic research companies and has been rated as one of the world’s 50 smartest companies.

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Furthermore, top international tech companies have established R&D centers here. Creating an internationally acclaimed and growing engineering talent pool, providing the most competitive corporate taxation in Europe, embracing “digital” and making it a priority, is helping us create a new brand for Serbia – a modern and sophisticated country that is attractive to young people, entrepreneurs and investors.

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Of course, broadband is the foundation. So our strategy for economic growth, job creation and social inclusion basically relies also on our strategy for broadband expansion. ITU has cited a study – and we took it very seriously – where a 10% increase in broadband penetration results in increased GDP of up to 1.38%.

What are the measures the Serbian Government is taking to boost broadband development?

Serbia is a predominantly rural country, and despite having very developed broadband providers, at least 15% of households are situated in areas with no private economic investments in fixed broadband networks.

We decided to pilot an incentive scheme developed in cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to jointly construct fixed broadband infrastructure in those areas. Phase one will bring 100Mbps+ connectivity to 600 communities with 90,000 households by 2022. And by 2025, most Serbian households will have access to a 100Mbps+ fixed broadband connection. 

How can the international community help?

The international community is already providing a great deal of help. We are all learning significantly from the experiences of different countries and gladly share our own achievements, and this is where the International Telecommunication Union proved to be very instrumental. In fact, Serbia is one of the oldest members of the ITU, and that contributed to our global digital affiliation and recognition.

*Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of ITU.

Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Note to reader: The Prime Minister of Serbia’s office will be speaking at the ITU Webinar on Towards Strengthened Impact of ICTs on Economic Development in Europe on 15 June 2020 from 14.00 to 15.00. Learn more here.