An unexpected tech boom in Serbia by The Economist

Feb 27th 2020 edition

It was mid-january and the Serbian capital was covered in toxic smog. Belgraders peered into their phones to check an app informing them about the air quality. It was “hazardous”, but if they were at a bus stop there was one thing to celebrate. Though they could barely see 200 yards, they could tell when their bus was arriving, as timings had just been added to Google Maps, years after most other European capitals. The digital revolution is at last arriving for Serbs. And as Europe goes green, more good news may be on the way. Serbia is sitting on one of the continent’s largest reserves of lithium, an essential ingredient for the batteries of electric cars.

Tech accounts for at least 6% of Serbia’s gdp. It employs some 45,000 people. Foreign firms have spent more than $500m on Serbian startups in the past six years, says Zoja Kukic of the Digital Serbia Initiative (dsi), which champions the sector’s interests. Last year’s exports are expected to have reached €1.4bn ($1.5bn), an increase of 55% on 2017. The real figure could be much higher, says Nebojsa Djurdjevic, head of the dsi. Foreign-exchange rules mean that payments are often sent to companies set up abroad, and no one can keep track of an estimated 10,000 freelancers who often operate alone.

Read the original article here.