The Hub will make the most of technology to tackle social challenges and advance human development.
To learn more about the scope of the project, we spoke with Dimitar Trajanov, PhD, Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering.
Q: What is the idea behind the Regional Hub for Social Innovation?
Dimitar Trajanov: Well, the main idea behind the whole project is to encourage the development of innovative [information technology (IT)] solutions to social and economic problems.
This concept is underpinned by the remarkable strength of the country’s IT industry, which has been outrunning the pace of development of the overall economy and has become an engine for growth, innovation and competitiveness.
Given this burgeoning and highly skilled IT sector, and given the favourable policy environment, there is a clear opportunity to create new interfaces that will overcome obstacles and stimulate innovation to tackle societal issues.
Did you know that over 90 percent of IT products and services are exported throughout the world, and the [information and communication technology] (ICT) industry now makes up four percent of [gross domestic product] in the country. Internet penetration has expanded widely in the country. Almost 60 percent of households have broadband internet access, for example, with 96 percent of these households including young people.
Q: So the idea is to provide a kind of regional centre that brings together expertise to accelerate development?
DT: That’s right, though it should be stressed that the Hub will seek to draw skills from a diverse range of sectors – from undergraduates, from the private and the public sector, from civil society – and not just people already involved in IT but also from people with know-how in other relevant fields such as human development.
One of the main aims of the Hub is to facilitate and foster new partnerships between the private sector, policy-makers, academics and other players interested in promoting social innovation.
The combination of skills and expertise in development and IT and other areas will help usher solutions through every stage of the process from ideation to prototyping and all the way to scaling up.
The Hub will act as a kind of catalyst for the incubation of innovative IT solutions to address the most pressing needs of the population throughout the region. The products we develop will be aimed at the local, national and regional level. Some solutions may even be applicable on a global scale.
Q: How will the social innovation hub help tackle unemployment?
DT: One of the key aims of the project is to develop new innovative businesses that generate employment.
And the Hub will provide a number of young people with the opportunity to gain basic entrepreneurship experience and upgrade their skills so they have a better chance to create new start-up businesses.
The Hub will also offer internships for students. In cooperation with the private sector, we will organize a number of trainings in the areas where there is a lack of highly qualified workers.
To read the full interview, please follow the link to europeandcis.undp.org