Our recent TechCamp in Tirana marked two firsts. Not only was this TechCamp the first event of its kind in Albania, but it was also the first TechCamp to focus on the theme of "Environment and Technology." Co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Albania and the State Department's Office of e-Diplomacy from December 4-6, TechCamp Tirana brought together 50 passionate civil society, business, and government representatives, who discussed technological solutions for key national challenges, such as combatting illegal construction along Albania’s beautiful coastline, encouraging the government to support a robust recycling program, and sustainably raising funds for the important work of environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The goal of the TechCamp was simple: bring valuable technology to invaluable ideals and help the attendees harness state of the art communication and information platforms for local action. The results of the event were incredible. Project ideas included the design of an ecological footprint calculator application to allow people to estimate their ecological footprint, an online photo sharing campaign to encourage people to stop littering called “MyCityMyHome,” a map to track incidents of illegal hunting, and an open source Wiki designed to share information on areas around preserved UNESCO heritage sites. These ideas now have a real chance at becoming reality, thanks to the training that the participants at TechCamp accomplished together.
I emphasize the word "together," because one of my favorite aspects of this TechCamp was its collaborative approach. Not only did we organize contributors across business, government, and NGO communities, but we were also able to extensively involve our International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and Fulbright alumni in the planning and execution of the event. To help with funding and organization, we reached out early to local businesses that are concerned about the environment and the emerging role of technology in Albania. We were very pleased that our friends at Vodafone and Microsoft were enthusiastic about working with us on this event, too.
Local support was critical, because local trainers took the opportunity to share their best practices and available technologies with the benefit of community knowledge and experience. International trainers introduced new technologies to the Albanian participants, and these discussions helped to shape some of the solutions and to spur ideas for innovative environmental campaigns. Crowdfunding, GIS mapping, social media, mobile apps, and online video campaigns were only a few of the solutions brought to the table by the assembled technologists.
In the end, we were all proud of the event -- not only for its success in linking together motivated activists and technology, but also for the positive energy and the relationships made between business, government and NGOs. We intend to stay connected to the participants and to follow their progress as they do great things for their organizations, Albania, and the world.