Can Sarajevo rebuild from the rubble?

The capital and largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo is home to 275,000 residents, and like most cities looking to become smarter, it faces one big constraint: finance. So how does a city dealing with technical debt and remnants of war rise from its ruins and rebuild as a technology-driven smart city? For Sarajevo, the answer may be in its youth. A recent 48-hour CityOS Hackathon served to drive the discussion on the types of issues the city faces and some of the most cost-effective solutions that may be sitting right at citizens’ fingertips. Let’s take a look at how the new generation may help pull the city out of its war-torn past thanks to a wealth of innovation and app-driven solutions.


Powerful partnerships

In January, the mayor of Sarajevo, Abdulah Skaka, met with Edward Ferguson, the British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), to discuss a potential partnership, as 12 cities in the UK team up with 12 in the Western Balkans to exchange experiences and drive growth in the development of the digital sector. While this is one partnership that may help tackle some of Sarajevo’s struggles, another is already underway that’s much closer to home. The neighbouring southern Croatian city of Dubrovnik is working with Sarajevo to “build connected cities that solve citizens’ problems,” according to Telecoms Tech.

Both cities are looking to their youth to get the next generation involved by “changing the environment of innovation” and attracting engineers to their projects. Sarajevo-born Ceco Gakovic, who founded smart city operational system CityOS, turned to a hackathon as a way to create solutions that address these two key factors. Over 150 individuals competed over the course of the two-day event, which resulted in 32 apps and 10 companies, all devoted to smart city solution development. One of the most notable projects developed was Smart Sarajevo City Lights, which incorporates the Internet of Things and affordable technology to transform the city’s lighting infrastructure—from the ground up. Solar panels will be installed to supply new LEDs, which will help lower light pollution, as well as the taxes on city electric bills. Another game-changing development: solutions for air pollution, one of the largest problems the smog-filled city faces. Currently ranked the most polluted city in Europe by WHO, new apps such as Smart Furnace will help clean up the city’s air, with temperature-sensing devices that can be controlled and tracked with the touch of a mobile phone.

As these partnerships and hackathons show, cities like Sarajevo that face financial struggles and even greater environmental concerns can prove to be just as innovative as Europe’s more financially stable cities thanks to the help of a smartphone and even smarter residents who are willing to come together to provide solutions for their city.