Open Data Kosovo (ODK) is a foundation supporting the idea that freely available and transparent data allows for innovative solutions to be implemented, while exposing the public to nascent and enabling technologies. It’s based on the work of logical digital actors and contributes to stimulate a vibrant tech scene.
The initiative aims to fill the gap between Kosovo’s openness to technology (just recently the World Internet Stats report showed that Kosovo has the highest Internet usage rate in the Balkans) and a couple of days they already started acting through workshops and activities around Kosovo, starting with participating in a series of events organised by UNDP Kosovo in Prishtina, Prizren, and Gjakova relating to innovation in Kosovo.
What is Open Data?
Open Data is defined as data that can be freely used, share, and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose.
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 â€œuses government data to help parents find and research local schools in England.â€
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).
Only last year, the government officially stated the support for Open Government Partnership membership process, which was not followed by a comprehensible strategy, aÂ moment where Open Data Kosovo comes in to act.
Open Data Kosovo
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. Open Data KosovoÂ means 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 ODK to open data and they have already opened up data collected by Democracy in Action, Democracy for Development, and GAP Institute.
A few weeks ago ODK reached a major milestone when the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA) became the first governmental institution to join the open data movement by having some of its data hosted in the ODK data catalog.
Georges Labrche, co-founder of Open Data Kosovo, in a blog post elaborating the process and importance of Open Data and the value behind Open Data Kosovo, explains that “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”.
The mission of ODK remains to engage Kosovo in the field of research in four strategic areas, including the increase of government transparency, addressing brain drain of the local tech scene, exposing students to new technologies and developing digital solutions that address local problems.
There are currently 5 people involved directly with ODK, while last week they kicked off an Open Data Bootcamp in Gjakova in cooperation with UNDP Kosovo, Gjakova Municipality, Jakova Innovation Center, and Assemblio. Next up are Open Data Bootcamps in Gjakova which will end on Sunday 26th. After the last session, all of theÂ attendants will be certified Open Data Advocates.