Category Archives: Innovation

From a Concept to Success: Kosovo Diaspora Focus Group in New York

Join the discussion forum that will bring together New York-based Albanian business and civil society leaders to discuss and develop ideas that will make the  Diaspora Virtual Registration platform a success.

The event will be held on November 14th, 2014 from 18:30-20:00 at the School of International and Public Affairs ,Columbia University. Floor 13, Room 1302.

The discussion aims to firstly introduce the project to our Diaspora and familiarize them with the potential outcomes of Registration. One of the goals of the Registration of Diaspora refers to utilizing the Diaspora Registry in order to establish evidence-based policies in Kosovo and address the needs and concerns of Diaspora worldwide. Secondly, it seeks to enhance communication between the Kosovo government and its Diaspora. The Focus Group shall also cover the importance of the registry in the lives of the Diaspora members, the privacy of the information, as well as other means of registering family members.

Most importantly, this meeting seeks to take ideas and opinions of the members of our Diaspora regarding ways to promote the Diaspora Registry effectively, address areas that need improvement and examine ways in which the project could enable the Diaspora influence the policy making process in Kosovo.

Ferizaj Press

Crowdsourcing News In Ferizaj

Local news enthusiasts in Ferizaj have for some time now been enjoying an up-to-date coverage of their city’s happenings via an online news portal called Ferizaj Press. More often than not, it covers events before any major news sites get their hands on the local scoop. So how do they do it?

To find out, I spoke with Partin Imeri, a 22 years old student in Software Engineering  at the University of Business Technology (UBT). Hailing from Ferizaj, he also happens to be the founder of Ferizaj Press.

“We’ve only launched in March of this year and on average we already get over 40,000 visitors a month with over 200,000 page views a month,” explains Partin while he proudly shows me Ferizaj Press’ analytic dashboard. But who is “we” I ask. The question refers to the innovative aspect of Ferizaj Press that gives it a competitive edge over more established and traditional news outlets. “We,” explains Partin, “are civil society; myself, my dad, and Ferizajlitë who seize every opportunity they can to capture news they stumble on and submit it to our news portal.”

Like Kallxo.com‘s corruption reporting system, Ferizaj Press is a platform that engages civil society into adopting an active role in generating up-to-date online content. For Ferizaj Press, this means that they freely receive an average of 9 submissions a day and many more newsworthy references. “What this means is that I only have to worry about fact-checking,” Partin remarks, “the news just comes to me on its own.”

By successfully crowdsourcing a lot of the heavy lifting involved in gathering data, sites like Kallxo.com and Ferizaj Press have demonstrated that citizen involvement is an invaluable resource, particularly when promoting transparency values while fighting for freedom of press or against corruption.

Open Data Kosovo

Last week, UNDP Kosovo organized a series of events in Prishtina, Prizren, and Gjakova relating to innovation in Kosovo. As a co-founder of Open Data Kosovo, I was invited to speak at their panel on open data and to present the concept of open data at a workshop. Since yesterday was  the International Right to Know Day, I will take this opportunity to elaborate a bit on Open Data and how Open Data Kosovo works.

Open Data is defined as “data that can be freely used, share, and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose.” (source)

Many governments around the world have already joined the open data movement by opening their data. In the UK, volunteers are “working with Environment Agency water data to inform visitors about water quality,” and an online guide has been created that “uses government data to help parents find and research local schools in England.” But open data is not only for governments to embrace; in New York City, the transportation authority has opened its data as well and, as a result, citizens now benefit from the development of a healthy ecosystem of apps that drastically improves their public transportation experience (e.g. bus schedule apps).

The idea behind opening data is to promote good governance by enabling data-driven transparency and accountability. Open data has been a concern in Kosovo for quite some time already. On July of last year, the government “officially commenced the [Open Government Partnership] membership process” (source) which, unfortunately, was not followed up by comprehensible strategy to make government data available.

This is where Open Data Kosovo comes in.

Open Data Kosovo channels the digital capacity of young software engineers and computer scientists in Kosovo into implementing and maintaining an online platform that collects, hosts, and distributes open data. This platform is backed by a community of people concerned about government transparency and see the potential of Kosovo taking a lead position in the open data movement.

More than just a data catalog, this initiative operates as a lab where students can use and request open data to experiment with in order to implement innovative digital solutions that address local problems. Furthermore, digital actors who interact with Open Data Kosovo will be exposed to enabling technologies in a manner that will strengthen their skills and increase their value in the digital market. We mean to provide a space where students can develop the required motivation and inspiration needed to challenge themselves and acquire strong communication and problem-solving skills all while contributing towards good governance.

NGOs have been the most receptive in collaborating with us to open data and we have already opened up data collected by Democracy in Action, Democracy for Development, and GAP Institute. A few weeks ago we reached a major milestone when the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA) became the first to government institution to join the open data movement by having some of its data hosted in our data catalog.

Check out some of the neat prototypes our team of students have developed in the past month:

asset-declaration-app

Median Asset Declarations of Major Parties.

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Asset Declarations of Daut Haradinaj (AAK).

water-quality-app

Water Surface Quality Map.

No matter the advocacy and pressure generated by Open Data Kosovo, it is ultimately up to civil society to keep their governments accountable. Activists and watchdogs can help, but popular will is the best and only approach to keep governments in line. With this in mind, we will soon announce an advocacy program to help organize citizens into demanding that government data be opened. Stay tuned!

 

Girls Coding Kosova at Prishtina Hackerspace

Prishtina Hackerspace

It’s been almost two months now that the digital community in Prishtina has been enjoying their very own hackerspace. Launched in July by the guys over at FLOSSK, Prishtina Hackerspace places Kosovo in a worldwide community of digital actors who gather in workspaces around the globe to exchange ideas and engage in digital experiments.

We caught up with Altin Ukshini, one of the co-founders of the Prishtina Hackerspace, to get the run down on what’s been brewing these past two months:

Configured and set up a SmartCitizen Kit: Created using Arduino, an open-source hardware board, the SmartCitizien Kit crowdsources environment monitoring. Kosovo Innovations Lab has brought the kits to Kosovo and initiated their use. By assembling their own kit, the guys at Prishtina Hackerspace are actively contributing to real-time localized monitoring of Kosovo’s environment. Data collected includes  levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, long with the temperature, sound levels, and humidity. Check out all of the environment data collected in Kosovo, in real time, over here.

Wiki Loves Monuments Shqipëri dhe Kosovë: This is one of the latest projects crafted at the hackerspace. It’s an international photographic competition for monuments that will serve to contribute towards documenting Kosovo’s cultural heritage. The project is implemented in collaboration with Wikimedia, FLOSSK and Open Labs.

Meeting space: The hackerspace provides a space for digital actors to get together and hold meetups. The upcoming Software Freedom Kosova Conference is being developed in the hackerspace. There are also a few students from the University from Business and Technology (UBT) who find the hackerspace to be a much more appealing  alternative study room to that of crowded university libraries. Community groups around software development such as Java User Group and Girls Coding Kosova have also found a home at Prishtina Hackerspace.

The hackerspace is open to everyone, you don’t have to be a member to join in, work or meet at the hackerspace. There is also a membership plan​ that will soon be launched for those who want to further contribute to the development of the space.

Doors are always open for visitors so do pay a visit to the space and you’ll see how things work.

You can support Prishtina Hackerspace by going to the following link and donating:
http://www.prishtinahackerspace.org/donate/

You can also donate equipment:
http://www.prishtinahackerspace.org/donate-equipment/

Keep up to date with Prishtina HackerSpace’s activities by visiting their website and through social media.

Website:
http://www.prishtinahackerspace.org/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/PrishtinaHackerspace

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/PRNHackerspace

 

Learn Albanian From Your Home

The great Isaac Asimov has been often credited for predicting the future of learning, particularly that of  online education, thus famously quoted “Self education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is”. Now we have the chance to learn of the English as a second language, Mathematics, and even coding, all in Albanian and free of cost. One can learn basic English grammar through Professor Qaza, primary school math, and fundamentals of coding.

ALMOOC.com stands for Albanian Massive Open Online Course and the project has brought together an impressive 10,000 student base through a successful cooperation between : RealVizuals, Te Profi Qaza, EduonGo, Edukim në Matematikë and Unë jam koder .

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ALMOOC calls on all Albanian professionals and educational institutions to join this noble journey by providing quality education to all Albanians wherever they are, breaking down the barriers of location and financial hardship. You can all do so by applying here.

On the weekend of October 24, Prishtina will host its annual Software Freedom Kosova Conference (SFK). This event is the biggest of its kind in the Balkans; an annual non-profit conference established to promote Software freedom, Open source software, Free culture and Open knowledge.

Already in its sixth edition, the conference  has a solid history of successfully gathering digital actors who share a common idea: “that software should be free and open for the community to develop and customize to its needs; that knowledge is a communal property and free and open to everyone.” (source)

The call for speakers is open until September 15 and talks will focus on mobile web, gaming, and open hardware. Alternatively, interested contributors can apply to host workshops or even sponsor the event.

Registration opens on September 20 but in the meantime you can subscribe for updates on the event’s website and follow the organizers on Twitter and Facebook.

Richard M. Stallman, a freedom software activist and a computer programmer, was a speaker at FLOSSK annual conference in Kosovo in June 2010.

 

 

Nje Komb Calls All Albanians to Register Online

What started as table talk quickly became a reachable project for Besfort Axhanela. Currently a history student, Besfort has set a goal of identifying Albanians around the globe through his website njekomb.com. The site has identified roughly 320 thousand users with numbers continuously growing.

320 thousand is only a fraction of the total, Besfort claims that there are a lot more people of Albanian descent in the world. History shows that Albanians have always been migrating from one place to another, often forced through politic persecution or economic conditions. The website is fairly simple to use and the registration is complete within a few clicks.

The website has received a considerable amount of coverage:

“I have always wondered upon how big of a population we are. I know that there are milions of Albanians in Turkey, yet the number is still very relative. I am from Kosovo but I am an Albanian, being from Kosovo and the acronym of a Kosovar is a construction, I believe that many like I feel and are Albanian. I expect people that do consider themselves Albanian to register and identify through the page.” explains Mr. Axhanela for kulplus.com

The website, with growing number of entries will bring multiple benefits, people will have the chance to connect worldwide and learn of Albanians living nearby.

Connecting Diaspora Virtually With Kosovo

“Diaspora, register online!” – is the newest initiative of the Government of Kosovo in building better ways to communicate and present Diaspora interests in the home country.

The Kosovo Ministry of Diaspora has developed an online database where the diaspora can register. The goal of the registry is to ensure that the Diaspora gets connected with the home state institutions and have a way to more adequately channel its needs and interests. The Registry will enumerate and gather information regarding Kosovo’s diaspora, which will then allow institutions to build  policies that better reflect the needs and interests of the country’s Diaspora, which amounts over a third its population.

To register online, you can click on the picture below or in the following link.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.54.23 AMIt is the first time in Kosovo’s history that its diaspora is getting registered online. With  with support from the UNDP and IOM DEED project. A Ministry official said “this project took several months of intensive preparations, hard work, and dedication.” The Ministry expects the Registry to be completed in a period of several months, if not a year. The DEED project has announced it will remain engaged in supporting the finalization of the Registry project until it is fully completed.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.54.35 AMThe Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, recently endorsed the Diaspora Registry on his personal Facebook page. He spoke of the significant role the Albanian Diaspora played in the history of Kosovo, and plead to everyone living abroad to register and be involved.

Here is a video ad about the Registry recently published by the Ministry of Diaspora and Asha Graphics.

The Kosovo Diaspora platform has also partnered with the Ministry of Diaspora and the DEED Project in promoting the Registry. The platform has dedicated a specific page within its website, and will provide up-to-date information on the results of the virtual registration, as well as communicate the benefits of the initiative.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.26.51 AMMore about the announcement for the registration of Diaspora online, you may see the following interview with a Diaspora Ministry official, Mentor Borovci at the KTV Matinee show (in Albanian).

The Turkish Yeni Diplomasy Features KosovoDiaspora.org

KosovoDiaspora.org (KD) is a crowdsourcing digital diplomacy and engagement platform that connects Kosovars to the world, and the world with Kosovars. KD uses social and online media to highlight and celebrate achievements of individuals, groups, and organizations related to Kosovo. KD also serves as a tool to nurture existing links between Kosovo and its diaspora community. KD is an independent, non-governmental, and a non-politically affiliated initiative.

KD came to fruition in 2012 as an outcome of the Beyond Remittances: Public Diplomacy and Kosovo’s Diaspora study written by founders of KD, Behar Xharra and Martin Waehlisch. KD believes members of diaspora present an enormous potential for the country. Those living abroad have the passion, drive, financial resources and networks abroad. They have knowledge of their home country as well as familiarity with the cultures, language, life and politics of their present host countries. They represent bridges between Kosovo and the rest of the world, serving on a day-to-day basis as the country’s best ambassadors. Also, KD strives to cooperate with all Diaspora communities, governmental and non-governmental agencies, private entities and individuals to help strengthen the links between Diaspora and our home country, and enhance the image of Kosovo.

KD’s current and past partners and supporters are: the Public Diplomacy Consortium (Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, British Council Kosovo, and the Norwegian Embassy in Kosovo), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Ministry of Diaspora.

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KD presented its launched its re-branded platform at the Kosovo Innovation Center on 21 July 2014.

There were over 100 participants at the event, including the Minister of Diaspora, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, foreign dignitaries, civil society and technology enthusiasts. Initially, the audience was addressed by Liza Gashi, who is the project manager. Miss Gashi emphasized the importance of such a platform and talked of the struggles and achievements in making KD possible. “Unfortunately, a lot of the content about Kosovo is created by media from our neighbouring countries, which have had the tendency to publish content that mainly highlights negative aspects of Kosovo and its image; what we are trying to do is change this through telling the stories of our Diaspora members, and utilizing the fullest of our potential.”. Gashi thanked all the donors and contributors, as well as active supporters for making Kosovodiaspora.org the success story which it has come to be today.

Uranik Begu, Executive Director of Kosovo Innovation Center congratulated the initiative and expressed ICK’s full support for the KD. Begu emphasized that cooperation with the diaspora is an important determinant on Kosovo’s economic sustainability and development due to the fact that the Diaspora is an important agent in attracting foreign direct investment as well as bringing current business practices to Kosovo’s market. The Minister for Diaspora, Ibrahim Makolli, spoke of the potential of the Kosovar Diaspora in fostering not only economic development but also enhancing the image for Kosovo and Kosovars in the countries they live. “I am confident that through this platform, we have opened a new chapter in communicating with our Diaspora, a community that without a doubt presents one of our strongest potentials both financially and culturally”.

Arjeta Emra, the Executive Director of the British Council, presented an array of activities and events the British Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have supported, including the KD, in the field of public digital diplomacy aimed at the 5 European countries, which remain hesitant to accept Kosovo’s independence. Emra is very confident of the results and benefits of digital diplomacy for Kosovo, and is fully supportive of the KD initiative. Petrit Selimi, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, considers KD an important outlet of digital diplomacy for Kosovo and its Diaspora.

Selimi spoke of MFA’s many innovative projects and activities on public and digital diplomacy such as Interfaith Kosovo, an initiative that has gathered over 700 representatives from around the world. He further expressed pride to have invested on KD, saying “Through this platform, the world will know Kosovo as a country, as well as a thriving society.” KD, as a partner of the MFA’s Digital Diplomacy initiative, will lobby in favor of Kosovo’s recognition with a special emphasis on the European Union. KD invites every citizen and people with interest in Kosovo to promote the platform and serve as a cultural ambassador at their host country communities.

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Kosovo’s National Strategy on Diaspora

The workshop for developing Kosovo’s first ever National Strategy on Diaspora took place on the 13th of June in Prizren. After two workshops held in January and May, over 20 participants came together to finalize this important document in Prizren.

According to DEED, amongst the participants 25% of them were women and three were members of diaspora from England, Italy and Switzerland. This helped the results of the workshop to more accurately represent the real willingness of members of diaspora to get engaged in economic development.

As a result of this workshop the first draft of the Action Plan was finalized in coordination with the Ministry of Diaspora for the final approval by the Government of Kosovo.

The original article was posted at DEED – Click here to read the original article.