Georges Labrèche, a student in the Graduate Program in International Affairs, is the Co-Founder and Chief Data Officer of Open Data Kosovo, an NGO that believes opening data is essential in establishing good governance, government transparency, and accountability. Recently, ODK received funding from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) for a project focused on procurements at the municipal level. The project emphasizes youth engagement by organizing software development workshops for students in Computer Science and Software Engineering. In this manner, local youth work on data pertaining to their respective municipalities while gaining exposure to the problem of procurement fraud. The idea builds a link between strengthening their tech skills and understanding how they can use those skills for social good—in this case contributing to more transparency. Below, Georges describes how Open Data Kosovo grew out of his work on the International Field Program in Kosovo, and discusses what Open Data Kosovo is working on now.
In preparation the Kosovo International Field Program (IFP) during the summer of 2014 and with a background in tech, I read about Kosovo’s high internet penetration rate and the digital-awareness of 70% of the population. This high percentage of the tech-aware 20- and 30-something community in Kosovo triggered an entrepreneurial drive in me to check out the tech scene while I would be in Kosovo in order to assess if I could realistically get a start-up going. It was in the midst of researching Kosovo’s state-building process and its tech scene that I stumbled on what would become the subject of my thesis; digital diplomacy or, more distinctively, post-conflict, internationally-sponsored digital state-building. Most importantly however, the discovery of this phenomenon allowed me to embrace a truly multi-disciplinary vocation and escape a self-imposed dichotomy between a planned conclusion of my life as an engineer in favor of a dedication towards wherever a graduate degree in International Affairs would take me. Later that semester I embraced both worlds by writing a paper exploring the various interpretations of legal frameworks on the rule of armed conflict in cyber warfare.