Kosovo Navigates Formidable Challenges in Ambitious Bid for Digital Transformation by 2030

Embarking on a mission to digitize public services by 2030 is imperative for Kosovo to align with global standards, yet serious challenges lie ahead.

Kosovo aspires to shift the majority of its public services online by 2030, leveraging advanced digital infrastructure. The newly approved strategy for the digital agenda, endorsed by the country’s government, seeks to digitize the nation and bolster the number of IT experts.

In 2025, Kosovo anticipates possessing a fully digitized atlas of fixed broadband infrastructure, with gigabit connections expected in all public institutions by 2026. The strategy targets comprehensive coverage by a 5G network in 2030, with a goal of having 100 per cent of essential public services accessible online. Additionally, the document outlines plans for 90 per cent of the country’s citizens to utilize digital identification, while 100 per cent of medical data will be stored digitally.

Significant changes are projected in citizen education. As per the strategy, 5 per cent of the population is anticipated to become active IT specialists, while the remaining 95 per cent will be equipped with fundamental digital skills.

The group of experts leading the Digital Agenda implementation emphasized the need for action in Kosovo to enhance existing networks, allocate new frequencies, deploy 5G to increase mobile network capacities, improve service quality, expand e-services in business, promote digitalization in companies, advance digital skills among citizens, encourage lifelong learning, combat low cyber security awareness, and enact necessary laws and regulations addressing cyber security.

A particular challenge identified by Digital Agenda 2020 is the creation of the Internet State Code for Kosovo. This involves applying to ICANN for the domain “.ko” or “.ks”.

However, the finalization of Digital Agenda [DA] 2030 is expected to encounter several obstacles that must be overcome, including semi-developed fixed and mobile infrastructure, low digitization of businesses [e-business], limited e-public services, inadequate IT governance among government employees, insufficient digital skills among Kosovo’s citizens, an education system misaligned with labor market needs, and an underdeveloped environment for research and development in innovative technologies.

Presently, mobile networks in Kosovo utilize 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies.

During market analysis, government-engaged experts identified the poor quality of mobile networks as stemming from unallocated frequencies and the limited investment capacity of the national telecommunications operator, Telecom of Kosova LLC [Albanian: Telekomi i Kosovës SH.P.K.]. To address this issue, the government should prioritize the proper development of Telecom of Kosovo LLC’s infrastructure, as this operator plays a pivotal role in Kosovo’s digitalization.

Coaxial cable technology currently dominates fixed access in Kosovo, providing a speed of 100 Mbps, which is deemed insufficient for fostering a future gigabit society.

Ensuring competent staff for technological services and maintenance may pose challenges. There exists a significant mismatch between educational offerings and the needs of the labor market, with 44 per cent of companies reporting an inadequately educated workforce.

The agenda’s preparatory team believes that the government must address the limited investments made by previous administrations in this domain.

Challenges have also been identified, including citizen reluctance to engage in online electronic purchases and low utilization of e-government services.

The government and its departments will need to work hard and strategically to reap the benefits of internet use, which is above average among the citizens of Kosovo, with more than 95 percent engaging in this massive use. Currently, this high level of usage primarily serves communication, entertainment, and obtaining information. 

Advanced use for e-commerce, e-government, e-education, and e-health is quite limited. In this regard, the challenge is to change the mindset and social mentality regarding the benefits and purposes for which technology should be used. Although the current speed may be adequate for existing purposes, the speed of internet access must be improved. Digitization requires connectivity anywhere and anytime. Only 5G mobile networks and fixed networks with very high capacity can meet the requirements of DA 2030.

The existing fixed networks must be upgraded with optical fibers, which will be problematic for the government from a financial point of view as they will require substantial investments and incur high costs.

Digitization worldwide has presented new problems that humanity has not faced before. Privacy and data protection are at the core and inescapable of whatever potential the EU aims to achieve.

The Government of Kosovo will have to know how to manage and improve the current situation, which is characterized by low citizen awareness of information security, known as cybersecurity. The executive has already taken a step toward this through the issuance of the National Cyber Security Strategy.

Although very necessary, the achievement of the 5 percent of information technology specialists in the country is being considered very ambitious. Experts believe that the government will need a proper educational strategy, where non-formal education should be defined as an option for training ICT experts and specialists. 

Since the current number of accredited university programs in the public and private sectors is not able to produce the required number of experts in the field within the specified period, primary and secondary education will also have to undergo a significant transformation to adapt to the digital age.

For the government, it will also be a challenge to provide financial means to enable innovative technologies in higher education adapted to the specific needs of the market.

Digital transformation, however, in addition to benefits, will have costs and financial challenges.

The government has announced that financing for activities will be provided from two sources: the state budget and donors or foreign investors, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank [EIB], the Western Balkans Investment Framework – WBIF, IPA, and other EU funds, as well as alternative [non-EU] investors and donors.

Nevertheless, achieving complete digitalization of the country by 2030 remains an overly ambitious plan.