Kosovo’s ICT Community Responds to Coronavirus: How Far We’ve Come

It is imperative to sometimes stop and contemplate the gradual victories one achieves and celebrate not only the quantity, but quality of those victories. Despite the perilous developments the globe has faced so far through the recent spread of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, there are plenty of milestones that the Innovation Centre Kosovo (ICK) and its community have reached and acknowledging them is the first step to laying the groundwork for more.

In the span of a few weeks, multiple startup businesses have climbed up the ladder and now showcase the fruit of their work with highly functional and impressive products regarded publically as well as contributions that help strengthen the resolve of the community during this perilous time, in Kosovo and in the world.

One such contribution comes from companies Vianova Health and Zombie Soup, donating to the Government of Kosovo’s Republic platform Kosova.Health, which holds real-time information about COVID-19, informed and updated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This informative platform that could mean the difference between caution and falsely-informed unfortunate mistakes offers categories known as “Talk to the Doctor”, ‘Symptoms” and “Preventative Measures” for the public to stay safe and have access to data statistics paramount to the well-being of less research-inclined individuals.

One of the main enemies of a virus-pandemic is an insufficient amount of information on it. By supporting and elevating the sources that do shed light on the matter, the community will have an extra advantage in their arsenal against any and all intrusive forces.

Another startup making good on their words and making valuable products is Formon, a local company in Prishtina that designs, develops and manufactures desktop 3D printers from the main building of the Innovation Centre Kosovo, in Prishtina.

The revolutionary step Formon has taken involves the creation of a product called VentCore, an open source ventilator special for having 50% of its parts be 3D printable. That arrangement of supplies and sources is considered a very uncommon , thus innovative, feat when it comes to the mechanics of a ventilation system that is integral to air quality, helping cases of people with chronic respiratory issues worsened by the spontaneous hit of COVID-19. The company plans to start with the serial production as soon as VentCore is fully approved by medical experts and institutions. The company has the capacity of producing from 50-100 units per day.

In lieu of the developments so far down the road, ICK also implemented an Online Hackathon dubbed as Hack the Crisis Kosova where 70 teams brought creative alternative digital solutions to current issues to the table. The overall participation rate included 108 applications received, 400 community members, 70 teams and 38 final projects. The Hackathon was assisted by 60 mentors in partnership and supported by 50 partners, including private sector companies, embassies, international donors, Municipalities and investors.

The winning teams of the hackathon that will continue to pursue implementing their solutions include Team Avengers with “Dhuro” (Donate) idea; a team that has created a web app where people can ask for help and acquire funds via a crowdfunding-like system that allows people to practice charity online during this tumultuous crisis faced worldwide.

Another highlighted idea includes PyPe, a knowledge market platform based on a “part-of-speech-tagging” algorithm, classifying information in such a way that it filters through typed questions directing the user to the information they wish to acquire. Users can be branched properly to browse facts, alleviate concerns and all sorts of functions that adhere to proper informational needs as a smart channel of knowledge and communication tool.

The Quarantine Management System, as another highlight of the hackathon, enables people in quarantine to communicate and make activities fun as well as based on personal information disclosed by users, to predict health implications with high accuracy and no saturated visits to the doctor. The purpose of this system is for the individual to not endanger themselves or over-occupy health workers and instead functionalize Artificial Intelligence to lower risk and ensure proper safety.

Other than the successful tributions with the Hackathon results, another startup originating from ICK’s Incubator Department, TapRrap, has also risen to assist the population. Working as a virtual startup, TapRrap’s motto is “Order whenever, whatever. TapRrap will bring it to your doorstep”. Through this slogan, TapRrap shows its customers the delivery service it is willing to provide so customers don’t have to circulate outside, not only in time when social distancing has made it difficult for people to enjoy their favorite meals but also to the economy of Kosovo built upon the success of favorite local food businesses, grocery stores and pharmacy sales whose livelihood depend on said businesses. A chain reaction of earning starting from small businesses to the fragile economy berated by the circumstances surrounding the globe. All this amended in 30 minutes with the help of TapRrap.

The education system is perhaps one of the most hard-hit victims of the year, bruising the motivation of new scholars, breaching application dates for higher education-seeking students and drowning the plans made to complete an immaculately planned portfolio for graduating individuals. As much as it has taken a toll on the system, it has also made startups like Scooler come up with new ways to tick those goals online through a free education platform with no tuition necessary and quality learning.  It includes features such as notifications for classes, direct messaging, advanced spreading of files and homework, limitless space for school material and many more features.

In a wide selection of innovatively helpful startups, one of the runner-ups in that category is definitely Te Pema, an eco-friendly and conscious startup implementing products in Kosovo for the health of the community and earthly preservation. After a high demand of hygienic precautions due to the rapid spread of COVID-19,  main Centre for Family Medicine (MCFM) in Pristina was equipped with a disinfecting tunnel structure for citizens who go for Coronavirus testing to disinfect upon entry and exit. The tunnel also helps the health workers exposed to each patient in their respective shifts.

Upon building and launching, the team welcomed people to try passing through where compacted sprinklers use propulsion pressure to spray a disinfectant liquid in gas form completely safe for human skin that breaches through gadgets and clothes to make sure all potential spots are properly sterilized as people breach through to the exposed workers on the other side.

A startup that has not stopped its growth and beta launch is dua.com, a fresh startup product implemented in 2019, with a vision to create an application tailor-suited for the Albanian community (including the diaspora) to build bridges and assist each other abroad, creating a carry-on web of cultural lexicon special to Albanians far away from home.

The app (currently launched in beta version) includes a business feature for employers to connect virtually with their employees and create valuable connections for business online and a help section where people can give out answers and assist one another with crises for those abroad and alarmed with the global circumstances.

An ecosystem of Albanians in the digital world strengthening the values of their own community through dua staff’s hard work and vibrantly delightful people, sure to connect more than just what’s on the inside.

Other initiatives (by ICK’s friends and partners) taken to maximize the ICT community’s capacity to bring forth solutions in crisis include #rriNshpi; to keep social media platforms on the loop for newest development and encourage social distancing and Disponimi Im; a mood-o-meter for Kosovo citizens to rate the emotional atmosphere daily and come up with ways to elevate mood with many more projects and initiatives to come. An educative initiative includes Ed.spot, an app that offers free quality online courses in Albanian for mathematics and language studies for students in Elementary schools.

The progress and pace, especially taking into account the current circumstances, has shown the promising potential of each startup and many others still in the process of development and implementation as priceless jewels in Innovation Centre Kosovo (ICK)’s crown in the world of Entrepreneurship.

The startup community in Kosovo needs urgent assistance by the Government, especially during the post-pandemic era. Therefore, the Innovation Center Kosovo (ICK) has also invited the Government of Kosovo, the Assembly of the Republic, other local institutions and donors to have a special focus on existing startup businesses, as well creating facilitation mechanisms in helping entrepreneurship in the country. ICT startup businesses will be crucial not only for the recovery of the economy, but also for improving the well being and lives of Kosovo’s citizens through innovation. Download the “COVID-19 Impact on Kosovo startups” report and recommendations here.

And if you want to know your Quarantine “Time-Out” in Kosovo, you can easily check it online by using personal ID number, at kurmedal.com

While in quarantine (and after) try “Math for Kids” free App by Trigonom. It’s fun!

Creative approaches and innovative dedication has not been amiss within each team that engages in ICK and there are many more to come.

Stay tuned.