Activists and Geeks Team Up for TechCamp on Accountability and Transparency in Government

Ambassador Moon Opening TechCamp Sarajevo
On October 18 and 19, geeks and activists from throughout the region descended upon Sarajevo’s Dom mladih for a unique event – the first ever TechCamp in the Western Balkans. Twitter fanatics tweeted and bloggers blogged while representatives of civil society groups focusing on government accountability and transparency worked with information technology experts to discover how they could amplify their activism using the power of technology. The TechCamp was the fifteenth held worldwide as part of the U.S. State Department’s civil society 2.0 initiative. This time, we paired with global technology NGO TechSoup and regional partners including Zasto ne (BiH), Dokukino (Serbia), and Kosovo2.0 (Kosovo) to create a powerhouse, region wide event including activists and technologists from Croatia (11), Bosnia and Herzegovina (20), Kosovo (20), Macedonia (9), Montenegro (11), and Serbia (21).
Technology trainer Thomas Levine from ScraperWiki
gives a presentation at “Speed Geeking”

While the concert venue, loud music, and bright lights kept energy high, the conversation flowed from citizen journalism to “data scrapping,” from using SMS technology to monitor elections to mapping and infographics that help visualize public budgets. The topic, the tools, and the small working groups sparked creative brainstorming and made two things very clear. First, transparency, accountability and citizen engagement are challenges that truly cut across boundaries in the region, and second, NGOs in the region want and need to use technology more effectively.

 TechCamps are focused on active problem solving, so participants were asked on Day 1 to come up with a list of problems their NGOs face and worked together with technologists to come up with program plans to address those problems on Day 2. They left with some very clearly articulated plans and, in addition to the informal network that these events usually promote, something more. Thanks to TechSoup, participants can continue their conversation and education in all things tech via an online platform called “Community Boost_r.” The platform, which is open to TechCamp participants and anyone else aims to connect accountability and transparency NGOs to (1) give them access to technology tools and (2) create a living network for a regional community of support.

Technology trainer Friedrich Lindenberg from Open Knowledge
Foundation leads a small group training session
But perhaps the coolest part of organizing an event for the tech savvy (or soon to be tech savvy) is the now almost instantaneous feedback one gets when tweets started flying for #TechCamp #Sarajevo. Participants shared their thoughts (and some of the new tools they learned about) in person and online, with their newfound friends and with people simply watching the conversation from afar. One thing that technology has undeniably done is cut through geographic distance and bring us together. Likewise, we were thrilled to bring together a hundred energetic, motivated activists at TechCamp Sarajevo, and hope to see this community grow together and thrive in the future. Congrats TechCamp Sarajevo alumni!

See pictures from TechCamp Sarajevo at the Embassy’s Facebook page or follow the conversation on Twitter at #TechCamp.