UK gov commits £10m to boost digital skills in Western Balkans

Despite ongoing Brexit negotiations Boris Johnson will announce an EU-centric funding pledge at a summit later today

The UK government will commit 10 million to help build digital skills and employment prospects for young people in the Western Balkans.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, will make an announcement at the first day of the Western Balkans Summit in London later today and outline plans to provide digital skills to the six states that make up the region.

This will be the fifth annual Summit as part of the Berlin Process that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel launched in 2014 and will focus on strengthening regional security cooperation, increasing economic stability and fostering greater political cooperation.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Johnson said the funding demonstrated the UK's "enduring commitment" to the Western Balkans that can help pave a prosperous future for the region which has had tense relationships since the ethnic wars following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 90s.

"We are working internationally to provide young people, particularly young women, with the digital skills necessary to participate in the future economy and fulfil their potential," he said. "Importantly it also shows our desire to help the region overcome some of the most difficult chapters in their history and pave the way to an even more prosperous future."

The funding will provide training to children in over 4,500 schools to bolster digital literacy and core skills across the region. It is hoped that providing access to a digital education will help foster the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, both in the Western Balkans and UK.

The 10 million project will run over three years and expands the British Council's 21st Century Schools pilot, enabling primary school age children to develop critical thinking, problem-solving and digital literacy skills, providing computer programming and coding training.

It will run in each of the six Western Balkan countries, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, reaching 4,500 primary schools and up to one million children.

The Western Balkans have been set as a priority for integration into the European Union since 2003. Slovenia and Croatia have joined the bloc since the break-up of Yugoslavia, and while Albania, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro are all candidates, none are expected to join before 2025.

Such a move by the government given it is in the throes of detaching itself from the European Union might seem odd; IT Pro has contacted the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for comment.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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