It's said that change comes through the concerted efforts of small groups of people who dream of better times ahead. And then do something about it.
Today in Santiago, Chile, Google and the group Global Voices recognized three groups from around the world who are fighting for free expression online from Africa to Asia with the first "Breaking Borders" awards. These awards, supported by Thomson Reuters, are meant to honor those who are using the Internet to give voice to those once silenced, make the activities of governments more transparent, and standing up for the rights of dissidents.
The awards — given today at the Global Voices Summit where Internet activists from 60 countries have gathered — were originally announced November 3, 2009, when Google and others marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the aim of celebrating how the Internet has become a vital ally in worldwide efforts to advance freedom and political change. This is particularly true at a time when dissidents, journalists and bloggers remain under severe pressure in the online and offline worlds.
An international jury of experts reviewed nominations from around the world and chose the awardees in three categories: advocacy, technology and policy. Each of the groups honored will receive a $10,000 grant to further their work. The winners are:
An online community for Zimbabwean activists, Kubatana uses the Internet, email, SMS, blogs and print materials to disseminate information to the general public. Cited for its extraordinary contributions while operating under in a tense and dangerous political atmosphere, Kubatana's contributions also include an online library of more than 16,000 human rights and civic reports together with a directory listing over 240 NGOs. Beyond its significance as a resource for information on Zimbabwe, Kubatana has also developed Freedom Fone, innovative software that marries the mobile phone to audio voice menus and SMS to give citizens new ways to communicate with one another.
BOSCO - Uganda (technology)
BOSCO was cited for its tremendously effective and creative use of long-exisiting technology to foster social and economic development and peace building in rural communities of northern Uganda. Launched in April 2007, BOSCO began as a solar powered, long-range wireless computer network covering locations in former Internally Displaced Persons camps across the Gulu and Amuru districts. Low power PCs and VoIP phones were installed in schools, health centers and parish offices, bringing Internet, phone and Intranet connectivity to remote areas. BOSCO's long-term vision is to build collaborative, web-based networks. Today it focuses on developing and facilitating Web 2.0 training, online digital ethnography and collaborative online communication mediums between Internet sites.
The Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism (policy)
An independent, not-for-profit media agency, the PCIJ was founded by nine Filipino journalists in 1989 — with borrowed office space, an old-DOS-based computer, a second-hand electric typewriter, and office furniture bought from a thrift shop — to promote the values of investigative reporting in fostering good governance, freedom of expression, and the people's right to know. In 20 years, the PCIJ has produced 500 investigative reports, two dozen books on journalism and governance, five full-length films and dozens of video documentaries. It has conducted a hundred training seminars for journalists in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and won over 120 national and international awards. The PCIJ maintains a multimedia website, an institutional blog; a database site on politics and governance; and institutional accounts on Twitter and YouTube.