Nº 10 2012 > Country focus
Broadband in Albania
The ICT market
The information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Albania has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. There are four mobile network operators and many Internet service providers. The fixed incumbent, Albtelecom, and other operators provide fixed telephony. By the end of 2011, mobile penetration had reached 185 per cent, one of the highest rates in the region. The proportion of Internet users has increased rapidly to 50 per cent of the population, and international Internet connectivity has increased fivefold compared with two or three years ago, but fixed telephony — even though it has grown slightly — remains low at 12 per cent. At present, two mobile operators provide mobile broadband using third-generation (3G) technology. The process for issuing two other 3G licences has been opened. The Albanian Government and regulators are already working to prepare for fourth-generation (4G or IMT-Advanced) mobile communications in 2013.
Partnership to achieve Digital Albania
One of the main priorities of the Albanian Government is its Digital Albania initiative launched in 2009. Digital Albania follows the successful implementation of a number of ICT projects, such as the establishment of a business registration centre, an e‑procurement system, an e‑schools project and master plan, and a governmental agency responsible for e‑government.
On 6 September 2012, Genc Pollo, Albania’s Minister of Innovation and Information and Communication Technologies, and John E. Davies, Intel Vice-President and General Manager of the Intel World Ahead Program, unveiled part of the broad partnership that the Albanian Government is launching with the major ICT and telecommunication companies to achieve the objectives of Digital Albania. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed during the Regional Forum for Europe on Broadband: A Pillar of Social and Economic Development, held by ITU in Tirana on 6–7 September 2012.
This Regional Forum provided an opportunity for high-level dialogue between stakeholders on strategies and policies directed towards broadband development in the region. Participants discussed the challenges that high-speed networks and modern infrastructure present, as well as the opportunities they offer in providing e‑services such as e‑learning, e‑government and e‑health. The Forum also facilitated discussions on possible challenges that might be addressed at the regional level and might be further elaborated within the framework of the regional preparatory process for the World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014 (WTDC-14).
ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré opened the Regional Forum together with the Prime Minister of Albania Sali Berisha. “In the course of all these years we have found in Dr Touré and ITU a great partner with whom we have developed a very fruitful cooperation,” said Mr Berisha at the press conference following the opening ceremony of the Forum. Dr Touré highlighted the extraordinary and rapid adoption of ICT in Albania over the past decade, stressing the need for further collaborative efforts in the region to develop broadband.
Government of Albania and Intel Corporation announce a public-private partnership initiative to improve broadband access and quality in education
The Government of Albania and Intel Corporation have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to help advance the use of the Internet in the country’s schools, raising the bar for technology-enabled learning in the Balkan region. Looking for ways to transform the education system in Albania, moving gradually and systematically from a teacher-centric learning environment to a personalized student-centric one, the Government of Albania sought a solution in partnership with Intel’s World Ahead Program.
Intel’s contribution — through the Intel Teach Program — will include training 12 000 teachers how to integrate technology into the curriculum. Intel will localize and license teacher training materials, provide teacher guides, and qualify trainers by 2015. The teacher training and content commitments build on local government’s determination to deploy classroom computers on a broad scale. Now under way, the deployment is anchored by 60 000 Intel-powered Classmate PCs, which will provide a third of all secondary school students with computer access. At the same time, Intel and the Government of Albania have made a commitment to equip a third (approximately 6000) of all secondary school teachers and head teachers in the public system with laptops.
“Working closely with Intel and partners, capitalizing on Intel technology and a software eco system, combined with our experience and long-term commitment to improving education will bring big benefits to Albania. We would like to support and build Albania’s leadership role in the region raising opportunities through improved technology usage,” said Mr Davies, who participated in the Regional Forum in Tirana.
Minister Pollo commented that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Intel and the launching of the partnership with Intel was “the beginning of a plan that aims to radically improve broadband access for the Albanian population and the quality in education of our students”.
Also launched during the Regional Forum was a case study on Albania entitled Strategies for the promotion of broadband services and infrastructure. It describes the development of the institutional framework, together with an electronic communications policy and the associated legislation, and shows how this influenced the development of the national broadband policy of 2012. The case study analyses the development of the ICT sector, and examines how government champions and policy direction have provided the basis for the development of broadband in the country. An important part of this has been to define ICT as a key pillar for the development of the country’s economy and to integrate ICT into various sectors of the economy.
Government commitment to ICT
Albania’s Ministry for Innovation and Information and Communication Technologies was established in 2009 to coordinate reforms in the ICT sector and is leading the process of developing an information society. From its beginning, it has worked to attain the goals set by the Albanian Government to achieve an information society for all and to maximize the benefits that the country reaps from ICT. The Minister for Innovation and Information and Communication Technologies manages the digitization process, and has planned and supervises the implementation of the Digital Albania initiative, the national e‑strategy, the e‑government project, and the national radio-frequency plan.
The legal framework for electronic communications, approved in 2008, is in line with European Union practice of 2003, and Albania has embarked on a process leading towards the adoption of the European Union’s 2009 Community acquis. A policy paper on electronic communication was approved in May 2010, an action plan for information society development during 2011–2013 was approved in 2011, and the strategy for digital switchover was approved recently.
This year, the Ministry for Innovation and Information and Communication Technologies — with ITU support — drafted a national broadband plan. This plan was first published on 25 May 2012 and a public consultation process is under way. The government wants to develop and implement a broadband strategy for 2013–2020, in order to increase broadband penetration to reach the average level of the European Union.
In 2010, Albania received the United Nations Award for Public Procurement as one of the countries with 100 per cent electronic public procurement. Albania’s improvements in ICT indicators are given in the most recent global report produced by the World Economic Forum.