Category Archives: Innovation

Last year, I wrote about a “co-working open experimentation space established exclusively for technological, educational, cultural and scientific purpose” called Prishtina Hackerspace (source). The work space has since had a positive impact on its community; engaging the local youth into experimenting and learning with technology while contributing towards building a stronger tech scene in Kosovo.

Prishtina Hackerspace will soon celebrate its first anniversary and in an effort to keep the initiative up an running for years to come they have launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign called “Let’s build a Hackerspace in KOSOVO”:

At the time of writing they’ve collected $12,483 in pledges of their $15,000 goal. With 24 days left in the campaign, they still need to raise $2,517 in pledges.  So there’s still time to back this project and ensure that Kosovo still has its very own Hackerspace.

Supporting this initiative also means that the community will continue to enjoy engaging in tech related events that the Hackerspace helps facilitate. Events like Wiki Women Camp, where participants collaborate with the Girls Coding Kosova community to learn how to create and edit Wikipedia articles:

Wiki Women Camp

Wiki Women Camp with Girls Coding Kosova (GCK)

There’s “Beer and Code,” an informal gathering where speakers present tech related projects and engage participants into brainstorming and sharing ideas:

Beer and Code

Beer and Code

There was also the “OMADA” e-learning training with Girls Coding Kosova where participants followed a series of classes that taught them how to build websites and phone apps:

OMADA E-Learning

OMADA E-Learning with Girls Coding Kosova (GCK)

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter Campaign for an in depth description of all of their activities and remember that every little bit counts!


Gjakova is historically known the home of fine craftsmen and builders whose quality of work have developed the city’s reputation as a textile, carpentry, and metalwork hot spot. Excitingly, since February this year, a new kind craftsmanship has emerged and it is spearheading the city into the digital age.

A makerspace is a “physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build.” The idea is to create a “collaborative studio space for creative endeavors” where “informal combination of lab, shop, and conference room form a compelling argument for learning through hands-on exploration” (source).

Children as young as 9 years old can build prototype circuits with LittleBits.

Children as young as 9 years old can build prototype circuits with LittleBits.

Bonevet is Kosovo’s first makerspace and what better place than Gjakova for it to feel right at home among makers? The non-profit center aims to “nurture a vibrant community of idea and resource sharing among its makers, which will foster character building traits like grit, creativity, open-mindedness, social responsibility and most importantly team work” (source).

Building robots with Arduino

Building robots in Bonevet with Arduino.

Bonevet’s activities primarily revolve around technological experimentation where participants can make use of various professionally maintained manufacturing tools. This enables them to work on projects that involve metal machining, electronics, robotics, automation, 3D printing, computer-aided design, programming, Arduino, LittleBits, and much more.

They’ve already accomplished many interesting creations thanks to a training program that engaged students between the age of 9 and 12 with LittleBits and those between the age of 13 to 17 with Arduino:

Lately, they’ve started working with AutoCAD workstations to create 3D models and designs, as well as using 3D printers and experimenting with CNC Machines. Access to these tools is a great resource for the community as it enables students to further develop their inner-craftsmanship and invent prototypes of great potential for future digital product developments.

Young participants of Bonevet's LittleBits workshop and the electric guitar they built.

Young participants of Bonevet’s LittleBits workshop and the electric guitar they built.

Vllaznim Xhiha, a former member of the Diaspora, is the founder of the idea. Through “Unë e du Kosovën”  Foundation, he invested on the acquisition, renovation, and furnishing of Bonevet makerspace. It’s an initiative he continuously dedicates himself to and that others can support via donations.

Bonevet is already shaping the next generation of made in Kosovo digital craftsmanship and, who knows, maybe it will be known as the birthplace of a future Kosovo Silicon Valley.

Microsoft Awards Albanian Programmers

Online Albanian platform ALMOOC which promotes the scientific education of Albanians, in cooperation with the current leader in information technology (IT), Microsoft, award application programmers working on the Windows Phone operating system (OS).

Almost two months prior, the platform for scientific education ALMOOC, in cooperation with the IT giant MICROSOFT Windows App Studio announced the competition “The Best of Almooc” with the slogan “learning has never been more fun”. The intention of this competition was to engage budding Albanian programmers to build apps (applications) for the Windows Phone OS.

This competition managed to incite a lot of interest in the technologically-passionate in Albania as well as in Kosovo. The number of participants was in the highs of 1000, showing the growth of the competitive spirit in Albanians for such international competitions, but at the same time it shows the amount of Albanian interest in programming in general. This was exactly the reason why Windows App Studio signed a contract with ALMOOC in order to engage Albanian talent in building apps for smart tools working with the Windows Phone OS.

The jury under the lead of the head of Microsoft Windows App Studio Mr. Bryan Tomlinson, selected over 200 apps which were rigorously tested and filtered, finally publishing the list of 20 apps which were presented to the mass audience in the final ceremony. The handing out of the awards happened in an unorthodox e-ceremony, powered by the IT platform which the participants had access to while their projects were being tested in real-time.

The sponsors of the Windows App Studio event coordinated with Microsoft Albania in handing out four tablets in the first category, three of the award-winners being competitors from Prishtina and one from Tirana. In the second category, four Nokia Lumia smartphones were awarded, while in the third category, four certificates of gratitude were handed out for the third-category winners.

Jury member Steven Yee was stunned by the produced work and he remarked that the awards were purely symbolic in comparison to the quality, creativity and functionality of the products which the Albanian participants offered in this remarkable competition. On top of this, the competition proved the competence and professionalism of the participants, which shows the overall high level of ability of Albanian IT programmers.

The organizers ended the ceremony by declaring that this was only the beginning of cooperation with Microsoft, and that projects of this nature will continue, not least due to the continuity which the ALMOOC platform ensures with Microsoft in the near future.


Edi Demaj: A high-speed mind in Detroit

Born in Prishtina, Mr. Demaj is a hardworking 29 year-old who is the co-developer and partner in several online endeavors and the co-founder of Rocket Fiber, a next generation fiber-optic internet network in Detroit.

Like the rest of people from Kosovo, in 1999 his family had to run for their lives so they fled the country. Having lost their home during the war, they were fortunate to have made it alive to the US and move to a city near Detroit. “I fell in love with the city of Detroit very early in my American life; from Detroit sports teams to the history and legacy of the city. Very early on I adopted Detroit as my new home city and began to treat it like I did Prishtina” said Mr. Demaj when interviewed for KD.

Being immigrants, his parents did everything in their power to make sure their children received the best education possible. He finished high school in a city about 40km from Detroit, called Rochester Hill. One of his first accomplishments is completing his four year degree in Political Science with an Associates degree in Business Management at Oakland University under two and a half years. Today, he is earning his Masters in Business Management with a concentration in Strategic Leadership from Walsh College.

Mr. Demaj worked throughout his high school, college and masters. Until lately, he was employed at Bedrock Real Estate Services, where he was involved in the management, leasing and development of various projects in Detroit. During his time at Bedrock, he co-founded several startups, most notably iziSurvey, a startup that provides online and offline tools to collect real time data for very low costs. He also co-founded Reozom, a residential real estate marketing platform that makes the buying and selling of homes easier, simpler and more affordable than ever before in America. Last but not least, he is a partner in the first Albanian search engine, a platform that is changing the way Albanians find and use information, as well as do business forever amongst themselves. “Gjirafa is a game changer for Albanians all over the World, by far the most innovative Albanian technology to date and something we should all be proud of” Demaj stated. All of the startups he is involved with are in partnership with his younger brother Etriti and long-time friend Mërgim Cahani who is also Founder and CEO of

These online endeavors are a great example of companies with American headquarters; Albanian and American co-founders and partners that are training and employing Albanians in Kosovo. “Identifying what Kosovo is missing and finding a way to fill that void is how I try to contribute to Kosovo. As someone who has invested in Kosovo and continues to do so, I am hopeful that the younger generation of Kosovo will be regional leaders in innovation. We have our independence and control our own destiny, it is up to us create a business-friendly environment that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship” said Mr.Demaj.

Last June, together with Marc Hudson and Randy Foster, Mr. Demaj co-founded Rocket Fiber, a next generation fiber-optic internet network. “I co-founded the company with two other very ambitious and extremely smart entrepreneurs with the goal of putting a city all three of us love, in a group of cities in America and the World that have an infrastructure of ours available” he said. Rocket Fiber is building an infrastructure and will offer services that very few cities in the world have available. “Similar to Google Fiber, we are offering internet speeds that are 100 times faster than current average residential speeds in America. In addition to residences, we are taking it a step further than even Google by offering one or more Gigabits to small, medium and large commercial businesses” answered Mr. Demaj when asked to talk about RF services. ”Detroit has a legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship. We’re building a platform that will make it possible for entrepreneurs and innovators to develop next generation products on“ he added. Mr. Demaj is currently the COO of Rocket Fiber and is responsible for helping with the execution of the their vision by bridging the gap between technology, product and other areas within the company. The project will start with downtown Detroit in 2015 and will expand to other areas in the upcoming years.

“Being proud of your heritage is encouraged in America and it is where it all starts with the Kosovar diaspora in my opinion. I will continue to be involved in projects that have to do with Kosova and Albanians and try to help any way I can.”

Mërgim Cahani: Back to Lead Albanian Digital Presence Online

Mërgim Cahani is a serial Diaspora entrepreneur, who returned to his birthplace Kosovo to found a number of technology and application ventures and spearhead the young country’s road to tech industry development.

Cahani is  the founder and CEO of Gjirafa, a full-text web search engine and a news aggregator specialized in the Albanian language. He is also the founder of iziSurvey, an online and offline custom survey creator, and the CEO and founder of Phronesis Technologies. Cahani finished his Masters in Computer Science at the New York University, and BS and MBA at St. John’s University in New York. He returned to Kosovo to contribute to the social and economic development of his native country, and tells us about that decision in the following Q&A between Kosovo Diaspora and him.

A snapshot of the application website.

A snapshot of the application website.

KD: What should we know about Mërgim, as a person who left Kosovo, only to come back to contribute to his native country?

MC: Just like many others have returned – after being a student in the United States or elsewhere abroad – I too, after 8 years of education and over 5 years working (all in New York), I decided to come back to the motherland. There are many reasons why I returned – but the main one for me is: if I am going to focus on my profession and give my contribution to the community anyway, why not do it in Kosova. I think – while others may disagree – tech entrepreneurship opportunities in Kosova are better. So far the reality has met my expectations in Kosova. The success of so far shows that.

A snapshot of

A snapshot of

KD: How beneficial and challenging was the decision to come back to Kosovo?

MC: There are challenges of course, but most of them are opportunities. Challenges are present in almost every dimension: company operations, management, and infrastructure; then there are challenges in the product development, finding talent, and funding; of course there are challenges in the product usability, user behavior, and business readiness for new tech opportunities and products. So traditional strategic management and previous world-wide case studies do not exactly apply in this business environment, but with a small modification and creative thinking, they do wonders. It keeps our team on our feet at all time, it is dynamic, and it is a lot of fun.

KD: How were you affected by your time outside Kosovo in expanding your worldview and deepening your conviction to come back home?

MC: Naturally it did have its impact. As a high school student in Kosova, I was one of the last generations to attend a clandestine schooling system; going to houses as classrooms and running from the oppression as kids, as if it were a hide and seek game. It was difficult, but it did help me and those generations to be stronger and look at things differently. During my freshman year in New York (NY), where I was able to walk freely with my schoolbag on my shoulders, it simply felt great, really great. I bet one does not hear that very often and in fact it may sound strange to many. Thus, living in the US for over a decade, I was exposed to how things and life quality should be (at least some things). It allowed me to learn and build life expectations for myself and the community, and provided me with the belief that everything is possible given persistence and perseverance. If you can think it, you can make it.  That is the US thinking that I took with me.

KD: Kosovo is building its reputation as a state through technology. Social media have begun serving as a tool for engaging the citizen and digital diplomacy. Our platform Kosovo Diaspora is built on this foundation. What do you think of the potential that Kosovo has for focusing its capacities in building a positive image through digital diplomacy?

MC: Kosova is progressing at a fast-pace on technology innovation. In Kosova currently you have products, and innovative companies that compete on a global level with technology giants. I also think the same holds true for Albania. Our countries have started to change the global image, we are more than what the global media write primarily – we are more than the 90’s news. My personal experience also shows that as soon as you mention Albania or Kosova to the international community, at first glance, one does not receive a very positive image. But with time and work this is en route to change and will continue on the years to come. On the other hand, digital diplomacy plays a vital role in promoting our reputation as a nation. So far this has developed very well, as one can visibly notice from

KD: What is the potential that digital platforms hold to enhance cultural, social and economic growth in Kosovo?

MC: Although I partially answered this above, I think the easiest way to promote our country as an emerging economic market is through technology. In this field we are not limited by borders and other boundaries; there is no segregation. We can have a global reach as we have already started doing so.

KD: What would you say to the Albanian diaspora?

MC: Albanians living in the diaspora need to be in closer relations with recent developments in Albania and Kosova. Things have changed and have started to take a turn. There are opportunities here that could be of interest to them as well. Not just for the sake of contributing to the motherland (as many Albanians from the diaspora have done so and continue to do so), but also there are unique opportunities here that are rare to find in other markets. They should come and meet with people who are working together as a team and aiming to have a global impact. I bet many doors are open to join ventures with potentially high returns. It will happen, and I say (a statement that I hear often from many VC investors in the US): “don’t become a series B investors” (see Facebook investment phases to get a better picture of this statement).

KD: Is there something you would like to add?

MC: Yes. I wanted to mention, which is the first and most prominent Albanian Language Search Engine, quickly becoming the premier service for Albanian’s worldwide. Gjirafa, Inc., is a US corporation with offices in Kosovo and soon looking to expand to Albania and Macedonia, but it was built by Albanians for Albanians. Thus, we are always excited to receive feedback and suggestions from Albanians world-wide. Therefore I ask the Albanian diaspora to contact us with any suggestions or feedback, we will be very happy to hear from you and will respond.

#KosovoEverywhere Prize Winners Announced

On February 13, the jury of selected the winners of #Kosovoeverywhere campaign. The winner is a picture from Kazakhstan, a country that does not recognize Kosovo yet. The second prize goes to a group of youngsters in another non-recognizing country, Bangladesh. Bronze goes to a beautiful picture taken in Rocky Mountains, Canada. The three winners will receive a prize. Among the eight jury members were three Kosovar professional photographers: Bujar Gashi, Shkelzen Rexha and Korab Basha.KosovoEverywhere_1



“Although the campaign is officially finished, we think it is a great idea to keep taking pictures with the Kosovo flag in the world. We will put every picture in our online album,” says Kanarina Shehu. “The power of digital diplomacy can benefit Albanians around the world. This campaign is an easy and friendly way of showing the world Kosovo is everywhere,” she explains further.

#Kosovoeverywhere campaign started on July 2014. Kosovo Diaspora invited people around the world to take pictures with the flag of Kosovo during their holiday, study, or business trips. The campaign resulted in showing Kosovo in around fifty different countries around the world.

Starting from last year’s summer, dozens of people took pictures and uploaded them via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. “People brought a Kosovar flag in their suitcase or printed the flag on a piece of paper. They made a selfie in the center of a city or at a beautiful nature sight. Some even managed to take pictures of local people carrying our flag, even in countries that do not recognize the Republic of Kosovo”, explains Kanarina Shehu, coordinator of

All picture submissions can be found at the following link in our Facebook page: The call for submissions can be found here.

Blerim Bunjaku Brings The SwissMaker

Blerim Bunjaku is a Swiss-Albanian residing in the city of Winterthur, Switzerland with a passion for IT, business and politics. His innovative approach in helping foreigners attain Swiss citizenship is a unique story with a valuable message.

“Schweizermacher” or the SwissMaker is an app where Mr. Bunjaku offers lectures and information on Swiss state regulations on migration and citizenship. “With this application I want to help foreigners seeking Swiss citizenship access practical information on what procedures they should follow. The app seeks to ease the process of integration for foreigners. The truth is that most politicians only talk about integration and never take any initiative” explains Bunjaku.

KOHA net reports that this application targets predominantly young people, for they comprise the great majority of migrants seeking Swiss citizenship, thus the medium chosen to spread this information is done through smart phones and other app compatible devices. One key factor Mr. Bunjaku is keen on keeping is language; the application is in German, for the language requirement is a determinant factor in the process of acquiring the Swiss citizenship. The application has been visited over 1600 users so far and averages with 20 visits per day.

The original article was published in Albanian in KOHA net.

Ambassador Ismaili Talks Digital Diplomacy

The prestigious Diplomatic Courier has recently featured an interview with Kosovo’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Akan Ismaili. Whilst a successful entrepreneur, Mr. Ismaili has been an active contributor to the cause of brining Kosovo closer to the global community. Co-founder of both the American University Foundation in Kosovo and IPKO (an organization credited with fostering internet as a development force in Kosova), Mr. Ismaili has a rather interesting take on the question of digital diplomacy.

The following is an excerpt from the interview; for the full article and  interview please click here.

[Diplomatic Courier:] Kosovo has earned a reputation for setting a precedent in the use of social media and digital diplomacy. How do you define digital diplomacy for your country? How did it become such a prominent feature of Kosovo’s foreign policy?

[Akan Ismaili:] It is quite obvious that in today’s world, where the competition among the countries is growing rapidly, the tiny countries receive less attention and a sort of limited space. In light of this, for a small country with limited odds, such as Kosovo, the most effective means to mark our presence worldwide and to strengthening our nation branding is digital diplomacy. That’s one side of the coin. The other side was to use social media tools in order to get your message across; to be much more present. As a matter of fact, the online presence sometimes matters as much as the physical presence, maybe even more. Technology gives us tools available to enhance traditional diplomacy, to make it easier, make it more affordable, and be more efficient and effective.

[DC:] When it comes to public diplomacy, what has changed about the toolbox?

[AI:] There is no doubt that changes are visible. We are now much more effective and efficient. Every day you find a new use and more creative use for the tools just because they are not as limited as in the traditional sense. The other thing that has changed is timing. Timing is everything. You have to be there at the debate when it happens, while it’s happening, otherwise you are too late, everybody moves on much faster than in the traditional sense of diplomacy.
[DC:] What are the dangers of that; moving that fast in real time?

[AI:] Sometimes you get a feeling that it’s very superficial, like you don’t go deep enough into the issue. But that’s why this is not the only way you do diplomacy. That’s why you continue with the other tools available to conduct diplomacy. So, it’s not just moving with a crowd, but you also have people who stay behind and continue that work on the lower levels and lower layers.

[DC:] When we’re looking at the future of diplomacy, some commentators out there are saying that face-to-face diplomacy is sort of dying.

[AI:] I disagree with that. I think that’s still an important element. I don’t think that Twitter and Facebook replace diplomacy. I believe we have a new tool set and it’s more of a tool set of communicating with the public than replacing the traditional way of communication between the countries, because I don’t think Twitter can replace six hours of negotiations when you need a treaty. You cannot do that over Facebook; it’s impossible to do that over Twitter. You still have to have experts sitting around the table and nailing down details. What this does is to uncover the wider opinion and the important elements of what’s actually taking place in real time; exposes it a little bit more and makes it more transparent. And this is where I think public pressure comes into play because people know in real time what’s going on and why things are happening. That’s why it’s becoming harder and harder for people to keep closed societies because these tools are there. If government controls media, they cannot control Twitter, they cannot control an individual tweeting or sending information from a Twitter. Everything is becoming more transparent and more open because the technology is available to everybody.

“Virtual Initiatives for Diaspora” – a successful virtual forum held through Google Hangout

In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Kosovo Diaspora organized the first video conferencing via Google Hangout connecting Kosovo’s government with the Albanian diaspora. Global Entrepreneurship Week is the largest celebration of the innovators and job creators. The forum brought together leading representatives from Kosovo and abroad who promoted a culture of entrepreneurship and encouraged economic development.

The Google Hangout forum was the first all-virtual interview connecting people from all over the world, with live Q&A session. The topic was “Diaspora Virtual Initiatives: Ideas, Challenges, Possibilities”. The participants included: Lorik Pustina (Prishtina), Head of Public Affairs at the Kosovo Ministry of Diaspora; Ermira Babamusta, Ph.D. (London/New York), international relations expert; Flamur Mavraj(Oslo), creative designer/web developer; Alban Nevzati (Zurich), Managing Partner of ODA Lab; Kosovare Krasniqi, Project Manager at Balkanspring; Mark Kosmo Ph.D., Director of the MAASBEA (Massachusets Albanian American Society) and Behar Xharra (Dhaka), founder of Click here to watch the discussion.

The Google Hangout forum was organized by Liza Gashi, Qëndresa Krasniqi, Albion Curri and Behar Xharra.

“This virtual forum was put together in an effort to shed light to the ideas and opportunities to connect with our Diaspora and identify ways in which they could be promoted. The message sent through this hangout by Kosovo Diaspora is that such meetings are an effective way of creating a communication culture between Kosovar businesses, Kosovo Government and the Diaspora,” stated Qëndresa Krasniqi, manager of the platform.

Lorik Pustina presented the initiative of the Ministry of Diaspora “The Diaspora Registry” which seeks to collect demographic data pertaining to the number of people of Kosovar origin, the number of people who have emigrated from Kosovo and businesses owned by Kosovars. This project is intended to be completed by 2016 and it will continue to be active afterwards. Every individual, born or whose origin traces back to Kosovo can register through the official page Lorik Cana is one of the supporters of the Kosovo Registry Initiative.

For this project, the Ministry of Diaspora has been cooperating closely with and Economic Inclusion of Kosovar Diaspora in an attempt to gather large data. “The impact of our Diaspora will be tenfold once we realize their true numbers,” stated Lorik Pustina, Head of Public Affairs at the Ministry of Diaspora.

Alban Nevzati introduced the first Albanian interactive application “Hirushja”, an App that seeks to help Diaspora young children learn Albanian. This is the first ever-interactive application with Albanian fairytales where children (age 3-8) can learn the alphabet. The application is a project of Oda Lab and Lepuroshi Learning Center and it will be available on iOS and Android on the 15th of February 2015. For more information visit

“Hirushja” is yet another educational tool for the Albanian children, especially for the Diaspora children who seek to learn the language. Hirushja will be one of the fairytales that will be launched under the educational center “Lepuroshi”, a collection of interactive activities for children. This is a fun way for them to learn, read stories and play,” said Alban Nevzati, Managing Partner at Oda Lab, Zurich, Switzerland.

Kosovare Krasniqi discussed female entrepreneurship, the ICK Business Development Center in Kosovo and its cooperation with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the project initiative “Balkanspring” ( This initiative enables domestic products from Kosovo to reach global markets. Until now, this initiative has reached 50 domestic producers including minorities and an estimate of 2000 domestic products from Kosovo.”Beside the existing businesses, Balkanspring has managed to register an additional 19 new businesses that will contribute for Kosovo’s economy,” said Krenare Krasniqi, Project Manager at Balkan Spring in Norway.

Mark Kosmo of the Massachusetts Albanian American Society ( talked about a proposal for promoting professional exchange between members of the Diaspora and their professional counterparts in Albania and Kosova. He is also in contact with Harvard University about their Albania Project which seeks to promote the role of the Albanian Diaspora in Albania’s economic development. The Harvard project is supported by the Open Society Foundation of Albania (Soros). For more information visit

Ermira Babamusta spoke about the contribution given towards strengthening diplomatic ties between the United States, Albania, Kosovo and UK, by emphasizing a great historical friendship and cooperation with the Albanian Diaspora. Also, Babamusta mentioned her initiative, the petition to protect human rights of Albanians, and her collaboration with Albanian Roots, Kosovo Consulate in New York, VATRA, important meetings with US officials to lobby for Kosovo’s independence, and other success stories of community engagement.

“The Diaspora is always ready to engage in issues concerning the well-being of Albanians.  I am very thankful to the US and UK for being such strong supporters and the voice of the Albanians in the international arena. I value the great friendships we have between our countries,” stated Ermira Babamusta, co-founder of Democracy and Unity Foundation (

Flamur Mavraj concluded with suggestions on the aforementioned projects, from the technical and developing point of view. Mavraj proposed a closer collaboration between Open Data Kosovo and Kosovo Statistics Agency in utilizing statistical data. He also discussed the idea of outsourcing, a business strategy through which many companies could overcome difficulties and lack of staff in Kosovo.

This event highlighted the importance of leadership programs, innovative ideas, female entrepreneurship, small business, job-creation and other causes that shape the entrepreneurship spirit to build a better future for Kosovo.