Instead of 4 prizes, the awards were given to all ten teams from four Balkans countries that entered the finale of the Ministry of Data challenge opened in 2016 to search for apps that can improve the quality of life in local communities. The bootcamp held on the weekend 18-19 February in Zagreb enabled the development of all 10 ideas for apps to such a level that the GDI group decided to award all 10 teams with free education and software, and in addition introduced the additional 5th financial prize.

The top ten teams from Sarajevo, Podgorica, Gjakova, Prishtina and Pancevo, chosen previously in public and jury voting, took part in the bootcamp. It was an intensive hacking weekend where seasoned experts helped the finalists to build their projects and presentation skills. Teams worked individually with specialized mentors regarding programming, data analysis, spatial data, UX design, building sustainable business models, promotion and marketing.

The five winning teams received a total of $11,250.00 in cash prizes. Two winners of Cities of Tomorrow track were also awarded a three months long incubation. All ten finalists will receive needed software and training.

Thanks to online streaming, everybody could watch the final gala in Zagreb on Sunday evening and meet the winners. Here’s a profile of the top five finalists.

Cities of Tomorrow

Dream Green Machine Team from Bosnia and Herzegovina: the team will develop an all-inclusive, open source, open data, real time platform to gather data from all available sources for all pollutants, and from the future sources that are under development. Citizens of Sarajevo will have smartphone based apps to monitor air quality and send legally based complaints to authorities for cases of violation of permitted levels of pollution.

Tax busters from Serbia: the idea relies on a website development that will contain two main components: planning and realization of the public budgets within the municipalities as well as using open data regarding legal framework of the tax system.

My City Can Do Better

Verbatim from Kosovo: the idea is based on the Detailed Expense Report 2015 Dataset where students noticed that the List of capital projects 2015 has a considerable gap between the allocated money and realized projects. Verbatim’s web app will analyze cases where this gap is beyond a certain percentage, municipality officials should provide an explanation, while citizens can suggest other projects.

Special Mention GDI group Award: Spaces in the Balkans

InoCoders, from Kosovo: their app will ease farmer’s work and help others in collecting data about lands to help investors and show them where loam is located. What if you want to invest in wheat? The app can show you the lands where wheat is suitable to be cultivated.

Additional GDI group Prize:, from Montenegro: the team from Podgorica wants to make their city into a more livable place by making it more bike-able. They’ll do this by getting the cyclists involved via web platform “Ciklograd” which will collect and create visualizations of the data about the problems and their suggested solutions. Gathered data will be regularly presented to the local authorities, and request their action.

Zagreb bootcamp was also a great time to network. Young people could exchange energy, experience and knowledge, make friends and find cooperation partners for their projects. Meeting with professionals inspired many: “I have a new idol. I never met such engaged, passionate businessman who truly believes in our projects and who devoted so much time to help us improve our idea”, said Rinor Zherka from the Verbatim team: “I will try my best to improve Kosovo local governance but also not to disappoint Mr Lončarić”.

Although they were very happy to have won the financial prize, Dušan Pavlov, member of Tax Busters stressed that “even without it, I would enjoy this bootcamp. I met many young creative people thinking outside the box from our region. I believe we have a chance to change the world and we will do it!”

The challenge was enabled by the generous support of the Slovak Republic. Representing te Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, Viktoria Mlynarcikova, said: “I will do my best so that Slovakia will still support not only this region but also will be looking for new, innovative ways of supporting civil society.”

The growth of the challenge was strongly endorsed by the GDI group that was to sponsor three, but in the end the GDI group is sponsoring four winners of cash prizes plus training and software for all ten teams. “It gives us great encouragement that all these ten teams are putting their energy to improve their societies and make them better, more competitive. It is really inspiring. I want to thank them for their enthusiasm”, said Boran Lončarić, the CEO of the GDi group. He hopes that some of the finalists will turn into startups that will produce more jobs and bring prosperity to society: “Using open data we can help society and create stable companies that will keep the flame going. I hope that one day they will also support events like this and make donations as GDi did."

For more information please visit Facebook page or follow the hashtag: #Mdata16

“Ministry of Data” is an open data challenge focused on solutions for improving the transparency, inclusiveness and quality of life in cities of the Western Balkans. Ministry of Data was designed by UNDP and its second edition this year is implemented by GONG and TechSoup. It is financially supported by the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and GDI Group.