We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Paulina Behluli of Open Data Kosovo (ODK). The ODK is a regional hub for the 2021 edition of the Global Data Barometer. They will be working as regional coordinators for Kosovo and Albania. The ODK was created in 2014 with the mission to empower citizens of Kosovo with digital skills to help them navigate fast paced digital transformation.
ODK utilises their partnerships with public institutions, media entities, and academia to conduct capacity building sessions on open data with students and government stakeholders. One of their initiatives offered youths opportunities to join free training to build their technological and research skills as a way to counter violent extremism. In their initiatives, they are also working to address gender inequity and equal participation of minority communities.
Data accessibility is one area that the ODK is actively working to ensure that open data is available in user-friendly formats that can be used and reused in ways that offer opportunities for development.
On Open Data
Data accessibility is one area that the ODK is actively working to ensure that open data is available in user-friendly formats that can be used and reused in ways that offer opportunities for development. Paulina added that there are two key steps in promoting good governance: publishing of data in the right format and using data to conduct analysis and to produce credible recommendations for public institutions so that they make data based decisions. Availability and use are two of the four key pillars of the Global Data Barometer (GDB) indicating an interconnectedness between our work and the work of Open Data Kosovo.
On working with the GDB, Paulina expressed excitement about the expert-survey. She remarked that the vision of the GDB to be a global benchmark for data for the public good is aligned with their work and mission to conduct credible research and provide credible data for different countries.
Working with young people
One of the key pillars of the GDB is data capability. We intend to map capabilities of governments, civil society, and the private sector to collect, manage, share, and use data. One of the attributes needed for communities to be able to use and produce data is digital skills, an area the ODK is already involved in. One of the main pillars of ODK is capacity building for youth in the field of information communication technology. The ODK analyzes market trends, especially in the field of ICT, to create programs that equip youths with ICT and communication skills. According to Paulina, their research has shown that ‘there is a market-skills gap, especially apparent in the field of ICT because the education curricula in the public and private universities in Kosovo that offer this field of study do not quite reflect current market trends’. For example knowledge of coding languages and application development has become key. To address this, the ODK embarked on a project that identifies specific IT skills that are lacking in university education to bridge the gap.
The EU-funded project, Open ICT Education for Youth Employability, one of ODK flagship projects, aims to increase youth employability in the targeted socio-economically disadvantaged areas in Kosovo and Albania via the creation of the first online platform in Albanian. Kursori.org is a platform which offers three courses in the field of ICT for youth interested to gain crucial skills in the field of technology.
Paulina also indicated that they send surveys to organisations to collect data on programming languages that they use so they can design their courses accordingly. In her words, ‘we try to provide the basic foundations of those specific programming languages, and in every capacity building session that we provide one day or two are designated to soft skills development. The ICT field has a lot of theoretical knowledge about specific technologies and how they can be used to develop solutions and that leaves very little time to build soft skills’. In doing so, they also develop their interpersonal skills, for example operating in teams, research skills, public speaking skills, and presentation skills.
Key outcomes for Open Data Kosovo
An important outcome of these projects is keeping more youths out of spaces where they can be recruited by terrorist groups. In 2018 the ODK embarked on a project with Community Building Mitrovica targeted at building strong and resilient communities in Mitrovica, Kosovo. The project focuses on countering violent extremism in Kosovo through choosing students identified as prone to joining extremist groups. To ensure that they target those more in need, ODK uses research findings to identify high risk youths and provide them with extracurricular activities. Paulina added that ‘this indirect approach of countering violent extremism by offering these youths the ability to join free training, and build their technological and research skills is key in ensuring that no one gets left behind’.
The ODK strives to have equal gender representation in their training, with a 50/50 selection of males and females. Additionally, the organisation is also cognisant of the need to include all minority groups in Kosovo. For Paulina this was important because ‘we are all citizens of the Republic of Kosovo, whether it be from different backgrounds, different races, different genders, we are all human beings, first of all; thus should cherish equal opportunities and rights’.
More about their initiatives
In February 2021, in collaboration with Kosovo Center for Distance Education (KCDE), ODK launched an amazing software solution ideated by KCDE aiming to bridge the digital divide among school children in Kosovo. This digital solution was created as part of the Techstitution project which is funded by UNICEF Kosovo Programme and the Austrian Development Agency. Connect-ed Kosova Tracking System is the respective digital solution. The organization played a key role in setting up the digital infrastructure that allows organizations to share information and resources that they believe young children can use. This project was launched because a number of rural schools lack digital and physical infrastructure and resources. For example, Paulina mentioned that ‘many rural areas in Kosovo may lack a computer lab and deal with other grass-root problems’. Therefore the site is a key resource connecting those in need with possible donors.
To find out more about the work of Open Data Kosovo, you can visit their website.
Photo shared by Open Data Kosovo.