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Prishtina, 22.02.2016 – The first-of-its-kind Women in Online Work (WoW) pilot kicked off today in Lipjan municipality of Kosovo, convening for the first introductory class 63 female trainees. The training phase in the latter municipality will kick off next week. By providing specialized training on coding and soft skills, this pilot aims at increasing employability of a selected pool of under-/unemployed young women in “green jobs” provided through rapidly-growing online IT outsourcing. WoW has been designed by the World Bank’s Transport and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Global Practice and financed through a Korea Green Growth Trust Fund grant under the phase I of the technical assistance program “Innovative and Green Growth for Rural Kosovo”. A Danish firm CodersTrust, specializing in online education solutions and job matching services for online work, has won an international competitive bid to implement the pilot in the municipalities of Lipjan and Gjakova.
In order to take part in the pilot, female applicants had to successfully pass three online tests in English, logic, and HTML, after which they were screened during telephone interviews. The call for applications lasted in two stages in the period from mid-November until beginning of February. Overall, over 1,000 female applicants stated their interest in the pilot. A pool of qualified applicants, identified through the screening tests and phone interviews, was then invited to the training locations: a computer lab on the University of Business Technology campus in Lipjan municipality and Gjakova Training and Vocational Center.

“Our Ministry is proud to champion the WoW pilot as part of our larger program ‘Women in ICT’, the objective of which is to open doors for Kosovar women to find employment in the domestic ICT market as well as global digital economy,” said Besa Zogaj-Gashi, Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Kosovo. “It also aligns well with our Ministry’s flagship initiative - Kosovo Digital Economy (KODE) - that is currently scoping out ways to support deployment of future-proof digital infrastructure in rural areas as well as productive use of broadband Internet for ICT skills development and entrepreneurship across Kosovo.”

Development of digital economy has been identified as one of the policy priorities of the Government of Kosovo. The measures to support it have been outlined in the Digital Agenda for Kosova 2013-2020 and the recently adopted National IT Strategy. At the request of the government, the World Bank has been providing several ICT technical assistance activities on an ongoing basis since 2014, the ultimate goal of which has been to help facilitate the country’s entry into the global digital economy. Beyond the WoW pilot, a significant amount of grant funding was catalyzed for the feasibility studies on the increase of the rural broadband Internet access, rollout of infrastructure sharing between energy and telecommunications sectors, and for the analysis of the country’s ICT skills.

World Bank’s Senior ICT Policy Specialist Natalija Gelvanovska, who leads the ICT work program in the Western Balkan region, had this to say on the occasion of the WoW pilot training phase kickoff: “For digital technologies to benefit everyone, everywhere in Kosovo – to paraphrase the 2016 World Development Report on “Digital Dividends” – the enabling digital infrastructure should be in place, and technical capacities to utilize ICTs should reach far beyond a selected few. Through a lean pilot such as WoW we aim to demonstrate a potential impact of a country-wide ICT intervention, which would link unemployed labor to various digital job and education opportunities by leveraging on high-speed broadband access while promoting greener growth".

A total of 126 WoW trainees will be enrolled in a 6-month program from February through August 2016, which would teach them how to code and effectively brand themselves in a competitive online freelancing market. Throughout the program the WoW trainees will have access to experienced code mentors and career advisors to support them in their uneasy, yet exciting learning journey.

The pilot learning program and trainee screening algorithm is based on the model of CodersTrust, which serves over 800 students across Bangladesh, India, Kenya, and now – Kosovo – who wish to become online IT freelancers. A firm is oriented towards wide demographics, including the base of the pyramid, for which it has to offer a “financial inclusion system” that provides access to education and online job market.

“We're proud that CodersTrust was chosen by the World Bank and the Ministry of Economic Development of Kosovo to implement the WoW pilot,” said Asser Smidt, Co-Founder. “Our international and local staff feel determined to prove that our model can create systematic social improvement and offer a better and brighter future for young Kosovars. We have high expectations that following the implementation of the WoW we can help create sustainable economic growth of entire communities by empowering thousands with education and higher employability".