SOFIA DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION was founded as non-profit organization with the decision 348
of the Sofia Municipal Council to work for the sustainable development of the capital.


The First Balkan Hackathon, “Breaking the Digital Borders,” Has Concluded

The first Balkan Hackathon, organized by the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, Sofia Municipality and Sofia Development Association, the State e-Government Agency, Sofia Tech Park and Webit Foundation, is now over. Of the 30 teams from 9 Balkan countries participating in the 24-hour challenge, 24 were able to produce a working demo to present to the jury.

Nine teams reached the final round. Team Ethereal from Kosovo developed a “smart family” mobile app – for sharing responsibilities beween family members, shopping, paying utilities and family budgeting. Team Swift from Macedonia developed a virtual administrative assistant – a messaging app for communicating with local government authorities: citizens can ask questions and receive answers generated by an AI algorithm. Two teams from ELSYS reached the finals – Infinity+1 and Hushovete. Hushovete developed a voice assistant for the visually impaired using both software and harware on Raspberry Pi. Infinity+1 prototyped an accessibility AI that can interpret and summarize the content of text files and images. Wakanda Forever from Bulgaria created a model of an online university for peer-to-peer learning. Another Bulgarian finalist – Spoko – developed a working demo of Ana, their bulgarian-speaking equivalent of Alexa and Google Home, trained for 24 hours to read news articles and turn home appliances on and off.

The main prize of 5000 euro, generously provided by A1, and an invitation to Europe Code Week in Brussels from European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel was awarded to the Bulgarian team BookvAR and their education app for augmented reality textbooks. The team was also awarded the special prize of 500 euro from the Ministry of Education and Science.

Second place went to another Bulgarian team – XPNCTO – who presented a gamified app for monetizing good citizenship: donating blood, planting trees, volunteering, and other deeds with a positive social impact reward citizens with a virtual currency that can be used to access public services like parking, tickets to museums and concerts. The second place award is 2500 euro.

Third place went to a team from Serbia – Balkan Reconnect – who created an online marketplace for products made by Balkan artisans and won 1500 euro. The cash prizes for third and second place were provided by Sofia Municipality (Sofia Development Association).

In addition, several other special prizes were announced. Green Sofia awarded 500 euro to team Waste Heat Map from Macedonia for their app on reporting unregulated waste pollution. The Sofia Development Association award, the first scholarship to the newly unveiled Sofia Innovation Lab, accredited by Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, was won by the all-girls team Winners from Baba Tonka High School of Mathematics in Ruse. Finally, The Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria invited the members of 5 teams: Spoko, Hushovete, Waste Heat Map, BMPKP and XPNCTO, for a visit to Brussels and the European insitutions in September.

The Balkan Hackathon showed breaking down the borders of the Balkans in action and confirmed that creativity is the greatest resource for increasing connectivity.


"Fighting Hate Speech We Are Fighting for the Souls of Young People."

The poignant words of the Vice-President of Bulgaria, Ms Iliyana Yotova, from her speech to the participants in the international conference Living Together Online: Positive Messengers Promoting Tolerance, best capture the spirit of the 2-day event held in Sofia on June 21-22.


Lower Austria sends staff for exchange to Sofia

The regional government of Lower Austria, lead partner of the InnoBridge project, participated in a short-term exchange of personnel with Sofia Development Association with the purpose of sharing know-how and skills development in the area of fostering innovation. Kerstin Koren, Head of the government’s Department of Technology and Digitalization, visited Sofia to exchange direct experiences and work alongside with the staff of SDA.

The staff exchange included visiting Webit Festival, supported by Sofia Municioality, and more specifically the Webit City Summit and the Sofia’s Place at Webit, co-hosted by SDA. Kerstin met with start-ups supported by Sofia Fund for Innovations, Webit organizers, Sofia municipal councillors and other innovation and start-up ecosystem players.

The staff exchange continued with the first Balkan Hackathon “Bridging the Digital Divide”, co-organized by SDA, and meeting with participants from 9 Balkan countries, Sofia Mayor and the Bulgarian Euro Commissioner Maria Gabriel.

The staff exchange is part of the InnoBridge project for improving the innovation delivery policies, an INTERREG EUROPE project cofounded by EU’s ERDF.



THE BALKAN HACKATHON WILL BEGIN on June 27 at 9:30 at Sofia Tech Park’s Experimentarium.

The Balkan Hackathon is organized by the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, Sofia Municipality, the State e-Government Agency, Sofia Development Association and Webit Foundation, and is hosted by Sofia Tech Park.

The event is under the official patronage of European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Ms Mariya Gabriel.

The Balkan Hackathon will last 24 hours, kicked off by the Mayor of Sofia Ms Yordanka Fandakova, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Ms Mariya Gabriel, Deputy Chairman of the State e-Government Agency, Mr. Alexander Yolovski, Assoc. Prof. Teodor Sedlarski, Member of the Board of Sofia Tech Park, Ms Iliana Zaharieva of A1, and Ms Svetlana Lomeva from the Sofia Development Association.

The main challenge at the hackathon is the digital divide: making sure no European citizens are left behind in the digital age. Just 1 month after the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia and as part of the program of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, teams of coders from the Balkans will present their own vision of a connected Europe. The Hackathon welcomes the registration of 30 teams representing different companies, universities, technology parks, and innovators from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, and Turkey.

The participants will be competing for an award pool of 10 000 euro and multiple special prizes. The winning team will also receive an official invitation from Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to participate in Europe Code Week 2018 in Brussels.

For more information, visit

The Academy for Cultural Management 2018-2019 Has Started

Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia, opened the 5th edition of the Academy for cultural management today, June 25. The Academy is organised by Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, Goethe-Institut Bulgaria and New Bulgarian University.

After three successful editions focusing on Sofia and some sister Bulgarian cities, in 2017 the Academy for further education of cultural practitioners was implemented simultaneously in Sofia, Bucharest and Thessaloniki, and in 2018 it includes Sarajevo as well.

Its Sofia programme consists of an intensive one-week training course entitled “Cultural Heritage Thinking Ahead” and includes lectures, seminars, discussions, group work and individual consultations with Bulgarian and international professionals in the area of cultural management and cultural heritage.

The programme is available HERE.


International Conference “Living Together Online: Positive Messengers Promoting tolerance”

The conference, organized by Sofia Development Association in the framework of the project Coalition of Positive Messengers to Counter Online Hate Speech, co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union, took place in Sofia on June 21 and 22, 2018. It gathered together around one hundred participants and speakers with 10 countries: Bulgaria, Great Britain, Greece, Georgia, Italy, Romania, Rwanda, Croatia and Czech Republic, among whom the Vice President of Bulgaria Mrs. Iliyana Yotova, Sofia Deputy Mayor Dr. Todor Chobanov, the Deputy Ministers Mrs. Monika Panayotova and Mrs. Denitsa Sacheva.

The conference included diverse formats: panel discussions; workshops on storytelling, on social media campaigns and providing support to hate speech victims; pitching available resources for combating online hate speech; photo exhibition and interactive games.

The conference concluded that since online hate speech is a global phenomenon, the societal response should be equally global and united. “In the refugee and migration crisis aggression, hatred and denial flourished”, said Iliyana Yotova and pointed out that the most important battle we are facing is the battle for the standpoint of youngsters.

According to Malina Edreva, Socia Municipal Council the challenge for public authorities is to establish a favourable environment: “We consistently convey a policy of fostering tolerance and mutual respect in our city. However, parallel to the physical city, there is a digital city that integrates information and creates public spaces. It is therefore critical to improve our support to NGOs working in that area, to promote good examples and make targeted efforts to make technologies that benefit us all.

More on the conference and the policy recommendations it produced is available at:



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