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Ubuntu Harmony in Dragash

May 11, 2013

Last weekend the Innovations Lab Kosovo organized the first-ever iInnovate Camp in Kosovo`s most remote area Dragas. Around thirty pre-selected participants have worked intensively in thirteen different projects over a weekend. The outcomes were fantastic and we blogged about the camp here. This time, I want to share a nice side story from the Camp.

Participants at the iInnovate Camp come from the remote and isolated villages of Prizren and Dragas (with few exceptions). Therefore, the expectations were adjusted accordingly – we didn`t expect to find the new Stallman or Zuckerberg over there. But, I found something else; something inspiring that convinced me that the work we are doing here at the Innovations Lab with our partners is absolutely eye-opening.

iInnovate Camp

I was hanging around with the youth working in groups in a big hall where the camp was taking place, and trying to explore in more details the ideas they were working, and potentially help them if needed. While, I was moving from one group to another, I noticed that two young guys were using Ubuntu. At first, I was blown away from happiness watching them working on Ubuntu. I went to them and asked them why they use Ubuntu. They literally answered: “We have attended a Digital Bootcamp at the Innovations Lab months ago, and over there we heard about Linux and its advantages. We also received a Linux CD and since then I installed it in my laptop and I use Linux. I even installed it in my friend’s computer …”

Afterwards, I was reflecting about three main moments. The first moment when we started to pilot with the Lab; secondly, pioneering and bringing the culture of innovation in Kosovo`s development ecosystem; and lastly, the lessons learnt. I will briefly go through these three main moments:

  • Two years ago, when the Innovations Lab was launched and opened in Kosovo, the open-source technologies had been a topic of discussion in isolated small communities. And these communities didn`t have so many opportunities to leverage the maximum potential of open-source tech. Back in December 2010, I remember the first project we supported at the Lab was about “finding out the polling stations” during the local elections in Kosovo, by using open-source platforms and Open Street Maps. The project has been tremendously successful, and during the Election Day generated more traffic than the official website of Central Election Commission. Of course, all credits for implementing it go to a very enthusiastic open-source community in Kosovo – FLOSSK.
  • Now, after almost two years since the Lab opened its doors in Kosovo, we have continuously tried to pioneer and bring new culture of innovation in Kosovo`s development ecosystem. When I say “bringing new culture of innovation” I literally mean from very basic things such is a “google-style” and youth-friendly space to sophisticated projects such as “Birth Registration through RapidSMS platform” and many other ideas in between.
  • During these two years we have worked with thousands of young people from urban areas, as well as from very remote and isolated villages. We also managed to bring on board institutions to collaborate with us and youth-led projects. However, we have learnt many lessons and without elaborating them extensively (perhaps in another blog), I will only list them:
  1. Create and design the product WITH users;
  2. If you are going to fail, fail fast, learn from it and don`t be ashamed to share your failures;
  3. Don`t try to re-invent the wheel. Work with what`s already out there and adopt it for your needs and context;
  4. Be open – both in software and knowledge.

The two guys that I met in Dragas are just one example, which clearly shows us that open-source technology is acceptable to people even if they attend a single event like Digital Bootcamp.  There is a lot more work to be done both in terms of promoting and advocating for open-source technologies.

Innovations Lab Kosovo is committed to open source, and its commitment has been recognized by RedHat when on March of 2012, they awarded UNICEF Innovation Labs (in Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe) on their Billion Dollar Revenue Milestone.

At the Lab we will continue to organize many other cutting-edge events, harnessing and promoting open-source technology, launching high-profile advocacy campaigns, supporting youth-led projects and contributing to the growth of the nascent open source community here in Kosovo.

 

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