In this article:

Creating Skills and Community

Friends of Bosnia’s IT Education Center

Traveling IT Class

FOB Initiatives with Cornell University





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Center for Balkan Development
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FOB Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 1, December, 2003

Information Technology Training
Creating Skills and Community

Students attending a PHP programming class at FOB’s IT education center. The class is being taught by Nino Skiljic, a former student of an FOB-sponsored training program.  

One of the most critical avenues for creating jobs and stability in Bosnia is through the realm of computers and information technology (IT). The modern world communicates through the Internet; computers are essential to the functioning of most businesses. Friends of Bosnia is providing training in information technology to help Bosnians learn necessary skills, create jobs, and come together for a common goal: the reconstruction of their war-torn country. Here are some of the IT initiatives in which FOB is involved:

Friends of Bosnia’s IT Education Center

Through a creative partnership with Impact, a local Tuzla-based business, Friends of Bosnia has succeeded in creating an entirely self-sustaining information technology (IT) education center that provides up to eight hours a day, seven days a week of nonprofit community education programs. The center, located in one of Tuzla’s urban neighborhoods, boasts 10 IBM computers with Internet access for teaching everything from basic IT to advanced computer software.

The IT education center hosts Friends of Bosnia’s IT classes and is open to community organizations and local schools that wish to use the center for educational programs. Impact provides electricity, system administration, security, space, and Internet access at no cost to Friends of Bosnia. In return, when FOB is not using the computers, Impact uses them for its for-profit activities, including its Internet center. In effect, the computers pay for themselves.

At a time of diminishing grant funds for Bosnia, solutions such as this partnership between the business Impact and Friends of Bosnia show that, after an initial investment of grant funds, we can create entirely self-sustaining community services using local resources.

Traveling IT Class

Efendija Alija Ahmetovic is introduced to laptop technology.  

With four laptop computers donated by the soldiers of SFOR 13, the 13th rotation of US peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as additional desktop computers, Friends of Bosnia’s Traveling IT Class is off to a good start. The class visits different parts of the Tuzla region, with volunteer teachers providing instruction in computer skills. The laptops can be used to increase the capacity of an existing computer classroom or to create an instant classroom anywhere in Bosnia. Friends of Bosnia hopes to eventually own 10 laptop computers for the Traveling IT Class.

Currently, the class offers courses on marketable skills in computer software, such as FOB’s Java class being taught at the Medresa School and soon to be expanded to the Catholic High School in Tuzla; classes on basic computer skills, such as FOB’s senior citizens computer class organized with help from the Serbian Orthodox community center in Tuzla; and assistance to community centers, such as the Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Papraca, an underserved rural area about an hour outside of Tuzla.

Since the students and teachers are of various ethnicities or religions, the Traveling IT Class is a very practical way of bringing people together for de facto trust building, a way of weaving together Bosnia and Herzegovina’s torn multiethnic culture. Using the shared desire for practical education, the Traveling IT Class builds bridges and creates common ground for reconciliation and sustainable community development.

FOB Initiatives with Cornell University

Engineers Without Frontiers
intern Doug Mitarotonda from Cornell teaching a computer programming class.

Over the past few years, FOB has been developing a relationship with Cornell University, especially Cornell’s computer sciences program, which has provided several of its highly skilled software engineers for FOB programs. In 2002, a team of master’s students developed software for FOB’s connect- project (see page 9), and in the summer of 2003, a Cornell computersciences master’s graduate, through Engineers without Frontiers’ internship program, contributed to FOB programs in Tuzla, Bosnia. Doug Mitarotonda, who is now a Ph.D. candidate in Cornell’s economics department, helped Friends of Bosnia develop a continuing education program for both university students and adults and helped establish Friends of Bosnia’s computer software training program at the Medresa School in Tuzla. Through 2004, Friends of Bosnia and Engineers Without Frontiers plan to expand internship programs to build upon the 2003 internship.

In the realm of education and development projects, Friends of Bosnia has a long-standing relationship with Cornell’s Bosnia Coordinating Committee (BCC). In 1999, FOB’s director of Bosnia projects, Chris Bragdon, taught English as a Second Language at Tuzla University through BCC’s “English-for-Bosnia” program. FOB contributed $1,000 to a BCC intern, who taught English at Tuzla University in 2000. And from 2001 to the present, BCC has helped Friends of Bosnia promote its World Bank-funded community development project,The New Initiative.