Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, February 25, 2021—Households, businesses, and public institutions in the Kyrgyz Republic will gain improved access to high-speed broadband and further integrate into the global digital economy as a result of a ground-breaking investment by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, that aims to boost connectivity, improve digital services, and support the country's economy.
IFC will provide a US$3 million loan to ElCat LLC, the nation's largest private wholesale broadband operator, to increase fiber coverage in underserved areas. Fiber optic cable is the leading technology for reliable high-speed data transmission and will enable mobile and fixed broadband connectivity.
This is IFC's first investment in the country's telecommunications sector. As a landlocked nation, the Kyrgyz Republic's limited international bandwidth has delayed the adoption of broadband technologies and internet usage, especially in rural areas. With some estimates assessing the fixed broadband penetration rate at about 19 percent, access to high‐speed Internet remains limited and costly for individuals and businesses. Meanwhile, average fixed and mobile broadband Internet speeds are well below the global average.
Ulan Tolubaev, ElCat LLC's Chief Executive Officer, said: "We are confident that expanding the country's telecommunications infrastructure will spur innovation, productivity, efficiency, and transparency across sectors. With IFC's funding, we plan to expand our network, improve affordability and increase access to high-speed internet connectivity for households, businesses, and public sites—schools, health-care centers, and government offices—including locations in remote parts of the country."
Cassandra Colbert, IFC Regional Manager, said: "One of IFC's strategic priorities in the Kyrgyz Republic is to advance digital inclusion by improving digital connectivity. This will help boost productivity, create jobs, and increase access to essential services. By providing financing to ElCat, we can help lay the groundwork needed to drive innovation and bring the power of the Internet to more people and businesses in the Kyrgyz Republic."
Increased access to high-speed broadband networks in the Kyrgyz Republic will drive higher usage of digital services by businesses and government agencies at a time when data-intensive applications—video streaming and conferencing—are becoming critical for business continuity, especially with COVID-19.
IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2020, we invested $22 billion in private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.