Kosovo-as-a-Country in the world of technology

Posted on Oct 17, 2010

To help youth develop projects for the UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo, we have been holding active brainstorms where youth express problems and possible “projects” to help with those problems. Many fascinating issues have come up in these brainstorms, but I wanted to share one in particular.

During a round of “name, place of origin, and ‘one thing i’d like to fix in the world,'” two Kosovars said (re-phrased):

I would like to make it possible to select Kosovo as my country when I sign up to online services (like Facebook).

I don’t know why it struck me so, but I really felt the need to share this need that youth  here feel. Perhaps I like it because it just screams out the political nature of tools and technologies, which we often think of as separated from politics. And perhaps I like it because it brings me back to the most interesting question I came away from the Global Voices Summit with: what happens when public spaces and conversations are hosted on private infrastructure1?

Whichever it is, it is an important identity issue for Kosovar youth. It is hard to picture the Kosovo government devoting many resources to this; it is more likely busy advocating nations and institutions to recognize its independence. But what matters for youth is recognition by the “institutions” that they interact with.

I am really interested in discussing this with youth members of the Innovations Lab in the future. For now, I will leave with another youth’s desire expressed during the same go-around (again, re-phrased):

I would like for Kosovo to have its own soccer and sports teams2.

[1] – I suppose I should explain this question a little more. Basically, today’s public conversations (like someone saying, I think our community really should have X happen in it) happen on sites like Facebook and YouTube, which are private companies. The rules saying what kinds of things we are aloud to say and not say on these sites is totally their own decision–while the public may choose to say something about the conversations about their community, these sites can choose to ignore them. Basically, we are having “public” discussions, but private companies make the decision or whether or not we should be having those discussions. If you are as fascinated by me about this issues, I would recommend delving further with Ethan Zuckerman and Jillian York’s explorations.

[2] – Kosovo has no team of its own, and many Kosovars I’m told play in the Albanian football team. Recent spurts of unrest regarding national/ethnic tensions arising from Kosovo have also happened during and around sports games.