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Milan Dobrijević, Assistant Minister, Sector For Electronic Communications And Postal Traffic

We Want To Eliminate The Digital Divide In Serbia

The Government’s fundamental commitment has ensured that Serbia has become a leader of digitalisation in the region and, with the implementation of capital projects, we are continuing to climb the digital ladder that leads to us becoming a modern and humane society

The Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans was launched on the initiative of the European Commission at the Digital Assembly held in Sofia on 25th June. On that occasion, the EC, together with its Western Balkan partners, committed to investing in broadband connectivity, strengthening information security, advancing the digital economy and society, and encouraging research and innovation.

The Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, together with the government’s Office for IT and eGovernment, is a key institution in this process, tasked with creating the required legislative and infrastructural preconditions to successfully implement the digital transformation programme, which consists of a series of projects in all spheres of modern society. When it comes to the legislative and strategic framework, Serbia can boast of having extremely advanced solutions in the domains of information society, information security and innovation, which are practically completely harmonised with, and in some cases even ahead of, the EU’s legislative framework. We were among the first in Europe to introduce a law on digital assets, while we’ve also adopted and implemented a raft of planning documents (strategies, programmes with accompanying action plans) that cover all important areas, such as the development of digital skills, artificial intelligence, smart specialisations, E-commerce etc.

Serbia can boast of having extremely advanced solutions in the domains of information society, information security and innovation, which are practically completely harmonised with, and in some cases even ahead of, the EU’s legislative framework

In terms of communications infrastructure, we can be extremely satisfied with the situation from the aspect of mobile network coverage, because – with more than 98% of households covered by the 4G signals of mobile operators – we are the absolute leader in the region and are simultaneously ahead of many EU member states. On the other hand, from the aspect of the availability of fixed broadband access, a significant divide exists between urban areas, where the situation is completely satisfactory and over 70% of households have next generation internet access, and rural areas, where electronic communications operators have no commercial interest in building the essential infrastructure. The government has placed the solving of this problem among its highest priorities, and the Ministry is responsible for implementing an incentive programme aimed at reducing and, ultimately, completely eliminating the digital divide in Serbia. That programme will run until 2025. Implementation of the first phase is underway and, during 2022, will provide the possibility of high-speed internet access to approximately 600 rural settlements with about 90,000 households.

A second major project, “Connected Schools”, which began being implemented in 2018, aims to secure the communications prerequisites of modern digital teaching for every schoolchild in the Republic of Serbia. Over 1,600 main school facilities are currently connected to the Academic Network of the Republic of Serbia (AMRES), while other school facilities are planned to be connected by the end of this year. In parallel with this process, a wireless local computer network is being built in school facilities and has been completed in more than 900 facilities that are attended by 60% of school pupils in Serbia. Another 900 facilities will be covered by year’s end, equating to 90% of the pupil population. The remaining 10% of pupils attend classes in smaller facilities and internet access will be provided for them through the procurement of communications devices that will use a mobile network to gain access.