Digital Community Hubs in the West Balkans is a YMCA initiative, powered by HP to accelerate digital equity in the regions, by helping YMCAs in Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia to expand existing or create new digital community hubs.
The project aims to expand existing digital hubs and create new ones to enable young people, including those from marginalized communities, teachers, and youth workers, to access greater opportunities for education and employment.
In Albania, the plan is to provide easy access to the Digital Hub for schools, high schools, and secondary schools and other categories of people in Tirana and Berat.
Digital Community Hub in Berat
The collaboration between HP and YMCA has created an opportunity for the community of Berat, generating excitement among young people and even some middle-aged participants.
The digital hub here has progressed positively in the first 6-7 weeks, with approximately 400 visitors. In addition to formal learning, the hub has attracted a group of regular visitors who utilize the space to expand their knowledge, socialize, and network.
The Berat Digital Hub is located within a room of the city library, and its appearance has been transformed since the collaboration began.
The Berat Digital Hub began with only young people, but interest has since expanded to include library staff, teachers, and school children. The most popular courses include Social Entrepreneurship, Effective Presentations and Leadership, Starting a Small Business, Selling Online, 3D Printing, and Finance via the HP LIFE platform. With over 40 courses available, participants can choose based on their interests and professional fields.
The hub operates six days a week, with dedicated days for different groups and a day for children.
To serve marginalized communities in suburban areas, the Berat Digital Hub offers a “Mobile Digital Hub Day.” This initiative brings the hub to local centers in places like Mangalem and Uznova.
Many attendees, particularly children and young people, have never used a laptop before or taken computer courses. They eagerly participate in activities and receive assistance with basic digital skills like e-albania, emails, and word processing.
Since March 2023, people from rural areas have been traveling to the hub on Saturdays to take classes and complete HP LIFE courses. In addition to learning, they use the hub for printing, document generation, and research.
The gallery showcases some of the activities that take place in our hub, including testimonials from participants such as Mikele. He is a regular visitor on Saturdays and is particularly interested in the leadership and presentation areas as he aspires to become a TV host and moderator.
Mikele Kallanxhiu – 17 years old, Digital Community Hub, Berat
Digital Community Hub in Tirana
Upon completing their regular school hours, children from various communities and target groups, such as those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and Roma and Egyptian communities, eagerly visit the HUB to learn computer skills and various programs, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Paint 3D.
Since many of these children do not have access to computers at home, we strive to provide them with proper education on computer usage. Furthermore, we assist them with homework and offer access to office packages and printing services to ensure that they can complete their tasks.
For of the participants Eneda Fisniku, Orest Muça, Megi Bulku, Ilir Muça college students from middle school “Myslym Keta” that have completed “Social Media Marketing” course stated that during this training, they learned how to use Microsoft, Canva & Adobe illustrator, they also learned how to manage small, medium, and large businesses, and they enriched their CV more by completing this course.
In conclusion, the Digital Community Hubs project in the West Balkans, a joint initiative between HP and YMCA, has been instrumental in expanding access to digital resources and opportunities for young people and marginalized communities in Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia.
In Albania, the Berat Digital Hub has made a significant impact in just a few weeks, attracting hundreds of visitors and expanding its reach to include teachers, librarians, and schoolchildren. The hub offers a wide range of courses and services to suit diverse interests and needs, and its success is reflected in the testimonials of participants, who have gained valuable skills and knowledge through the courses.
The Digital Community Hubs project is a shining example of how partnerships between private and nonprofit organizations can make a positive impact on local communities and help bridge the digital divide.