Inaugural Breaking Borders Awards at GV 2010 Summit

To close the first day at the Global Voices 2010 summit, Bob Boorstin from Google and Ivan Sigal of Global Voices announce the Breaking Borders award. We’re inaugurating the award this year, which offers $10,000 grants to projects and individuals that support freedom of expression, recognizes it as a fundamental human right and connects freedom of expression to governance. Google and Thompson Reuters are providing support for the award, and Global Voices and Google have convened a jury to select the recipients.

Boorstin notes that forty countries are currently censoring the internet – “As far as Google is concerned, that’s forty countries too many.” Ivan Sigal notes that the award helps commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall and connects the end of the Soviet Union and the rise of internet culture. He challenges us to build the internet we want, not accept the internet we have.

Ivan explains our process: there was an open call for nominations beginning in December. Organizations could self-nominate, and over 300 applied. A jury – including Bob Boorstin, Dean Wright of Reuters, Rebecca MacKinnon of Global Voices, Sheila Coronel of the Columbia Journalism School, Edetaen Ojo from Media Rights Agenda in Nigeria, Jose Roberto De Toledo, the founder of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism – selected three winners for the inaugural class. They include:

Bosco, from Uganda (in the technology category). It’s a solar powered, long-range computer network in IDP camps in northern Uganda. The jury cited Archbishop John Baptist Odama for incredible technical creativity in bringing the voices of people affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army with the wider world.

Archbishop Odama points out that northern Uganda has been at war for 23 years and has therefore been separated from the wider world. The Archbishop felt strongly that the project couldn’t just build connections locally – they needed to be global and, therefore, needed to embrace the internet. This mean demystifying the “magic box” of the computer and making it a transparent tool for communication.

– The Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism, represented by executive director Malou Mangahas, receives the “policy” award from Breaking Borders. Boorstin points out that PCIJ isn’t exactly new to the scene – they’ve been working since 1989 to build a culture of investigative journalism in the Philippines. They’ve published 500 highly influential reports which have helped bring down governments and start social movements.

The vision of PCIJ, Mangahas says, is to ensure that good journalism leads to good government. These days, this doesn’t just include professional media – it includes citizen media as well. The hope is that the values and standards of solid investigative journalism are embraced in online and citizen media as well as in traditional media.

Kubatana wins the third Breaking Borders award for Advocacy. Kubatana is an amazingly energetic and creative association of NGOs in Zimbabwe committed to the spread of information within the country. Co-founder Brenda Burrell explains that most projects have focused on getting information out of Zimbabwe to the rest of the world. The real challenge, she explains, is spreading information domestically.

There’s no independent television, newspaper or community radio in Zimbabwe. People use mobile phones, but they’ve got virtually no internet access via those phones. Kubatana’s built a huge email and SMS list around employment opportunities (critical in a society with over 80% unemployment). While Kubatana is being honored for their technically creative Freedom Fone, Brenda tells us that the next project is a newspaper, produced by local people, distributed as wrapping paper for produce. It’s incredible to see such creativity reaching audiences who are profoundly offline as well as those online.

Congratulations to the award recipients!

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One Response to Inaugural Breaking Borders Awards at GV 2010 Summit

  1. Nii says:

    Kudos to all the award recipients for their sterling work in applying innovation and ingenuity in advancing freedom of speech and supporting human rights. Kubatanas good use of the in/out interviews, i’m sure played a part in thier recognition.

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