Balkan Barnraiser

I’m reading up on the Barnraiser project after Tom Calthrop got in touch about FOAF. Their Web site offers open source ‘social software’, as well as reports on incubator projects such as their Kosovo research tour (see project plan) from last year.

In 2004 we started work in both Kosovo and Serbia in incubating interest in ICT and in our platform. This became known as “the Kosovo youth project”, however we prefer to call it our “Balkan youth project” as it is expanding throughout the region.

In the mid 90′s war broke out across many parts of the Balkan region. This culminated in NATOs bombing of Serbia which lead to its eventual defeat in the Summer of 1999. Serbian forces fleeing Kosovo left behind them a land ethnically cleansed with hundreds of thousand of refugees returning from Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. The UN took over the administration of the province and the task of rebuilding its society started.

Today the need for education in Kosovo is vast, enhanced by the large number of disabled victims of war that find it hard to receive a standard education.

The economy is poor. International aid is being reduced and unemployment is on the rise (currently estimated at between 60% and 80%). Youth are increasingly finding it hard to see any future for themselves or their families.

Despite the problems, there are success stories in Kosovo. With the influx of aid in the past 5 years, Kosovo has a broadband wireless Internet infrastructure. Pristina, the capitol has over 100 Internet cafés alone giving youth plentiful access to Internet based communications technology (ICT).

Most Kosovo youth use the Internet for chatting and playing multi-player games. Sadly, they are unaware of the potential to learn using the world wide web for educational purposes Here we see a vivid reminder that installing hardware and providing Internet access alone is not enough.

Our project is run by local youth in Kosovo. In their words, “to provide us with an Internet based network to better our education, move us towards economic growth and self sustainability and allow us to participate in the information society”.

Looks like a very worthy (and timely) project. I hope to find some way to help…

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