By James Mugaju and Lisar Morina

People under the age of 25 constitute nearly one half of Kosovo*’s population.  Yet young people are largely unprepared and unable to fully realize their rights.  To address this issue, UNICEF Innovations Lab has been working at the nexus of technology and youth empowerment ever since 2010. It strives to develop digital solutions to complex institutional challenges and to empower youth to become social innovators in their communities; and to strengthen capacity development for public institutions with central and local authorities on the integration of rights-based approach to adolescent and youth empowerment and participation.

UNICEF Innovations Lab puts adolescents and youth at the center of its programme action. Through regular human-centered consultations, it contributes to increasing the capacities and opportunities amongst Kosovo’s youth, through seeking and securing meaningful participation both in the workforce and in policy-formation and decision-making processes, and to fostering media and digital literacy and critical approaches to information.

Furthermore, Kosovo is progressively improving its means of data collection and responsive governance processes. In this context, UNICEF has entered into a partnership with Girls Coding Kosova and Open Data Kosovo to support TechStitution, an initiative aiming to explore opportunities to equip adolescents and youth with ICT skills for the development of tech tools and products for public institutions.  Young participants from across Kosovo learn vital ICT skills of the 21st century, learn how to hand-craft their own websites and become part of a great local tech community in Kosovo. Participants work side-by-side with their mentors, identify problems and propose and design civic-tech solutions to them.

Young TechStitution participants setting up their laptops ©Open Data Kosovo/Lekaj/2017

Progress so far

From UNICEF Kosovo’s perspective, TechStitution is a platform for social innovators with the ability to see opportunities and resources where others only see problems; and to mainstream digital solutions into governance systems.  It is a knowledge-sharing means and a direct contribution to problem solving while creating simple digital solutions to complex institutional challenges.  Ultimately, the purpose of TechStitution is to empower adolescents and youth with 21st century skills on digital literacy and solutions to social unmet needs; and to help simplify bureaucratic processes to improve the timely delivery of essential public services to Children and families.

As of today, the implementation of Techstitution has resulted in the creation of a custom-built platform for the Regulatory Authority of Electronic and Postal Communications in Kosovo (RAEPC).  In addition, 450 young people were trained in ICT skills; 155 young people (80% girls and women) gained professional experience through participation in TechStitution workshops; and lastly, 4 digital solutions for public institutions were designed, developed and deployed using the programming languages Python and MongoDB (NoSql database program). This platform designed for RAPEC which digitalizes the application and reporting procedures for operating telecom companies in Kosovo was developed in its entirety by young Techstitution beneficiaries. The platform simplified and modernized the many transactions of RAEPC and will facilitate the operating mechanisms for both RAEPC clients and staff. Furthermore, the platform is built on open source technology, which means that the institution will have full access to the source code and can advance and expand it in the future.

Way forward

During 2017 and beyond, the Lab will continue to increase the capacities of public institutions by providing them with digital solutions to their challenges as part of UNICEF policy engagement to make institutions more responsive to issues affecting adolescents and youth of Kosovo.  Our plan is to identify unmet social needs and to create more digital solutions for institutions and to train additional 300 young people through Techstitution.

*All references to Kosovo are made in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)