Thursday, November 08, 2007

WSA 07 Awards in Venice (5)

So I home again in Almere and behind my own computer. I got stuck in Frankfurt and had to stay overnight in order to leave early in the morning; but also this plane did not fly, because of technical trouble. By 11 o’clock I finally arrived at Schiphol; 14 hours later than scheduled and after a lot of hassle such as unmanned Lufthansa Transfer desks in the morning.

Now the reflecting the selection process and presentations World Summit Award can begin. Fact is that the third edition of the World Summit Award has proven that the competition is still in line with the objectives of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a program started in 2003 and closed in 2005. In line with this program, the overall goal of the WSA is to show and demonstrate the richness and diversity of e-contents. ICTs are creatively used around the world, but only very few know about it. WSA bridges the content gap by finding out the best nd putting them on stage. It also narrows the digital divide in terms of access to quality information. After the official UN program, WSA continues to review quality content untill 2015. So the first edition without an official summit has proven to be a valid proposal.

I have experienced again that the World Summit Award is very unique. It is a non-profit invitation competition. National experts have the opportunity to enter a nomination in one of the eight categories. This year we had 160 countries; in the other editions of 2003 and 2005 respectively 136 and 168 countries were involved. This year all the national experts are mentioned in the catalogues and it makes a very impressive list. The fact that the WSA organisation has people on the ground is very important to make it a truly international competition. Most competitions are solicited by an organisation in a particular country and very much oriented towards that country. For example the Webby awards are international, but very US oriented.

The international approach yields an interesting cultural scope. With entries from so many countries, differences in interpretations of themes come around. The theme of peace will mean something else in Middle East than in Asia. It is interesting to be in the middle of that cultural diversity. Of course in Europe we think that we are diverse, and of course there is quite a difference between France and Germany and between Finland and Italy, but cultural diversity is worldwide. In this year’s selection there was the Irish product Ratemyhospital, which would not make it in Asia. On the other hand a product like the Mexican product Indigo can be translated to English for the US market and even adopted to a culturally fragmented Europe.

The international scope provides also for international contacts, so that you can see how projects and products are made. This year people from Fiji made it to Venice after 46 hours of flying and showcased their exciting project of using a GIS system to record the intangible cultural heritage of Fiji in the Pacific Ocean. Besides a network of international jurors there is now an international network of winners. And the Winners’ Conference was a fine occasion to exchange contacts and idea. I would not be surprised to see some cooperation. I noticed for example talks between a New Zealand e-science project and the Chinese science museum people. But also other talks were going on, for example with the people of the computer theme park Binar-e-World in Venezuela. Even if one contact was successful it would be worthwhile; but I know that more projects will be taken up either as project or as inspiration.

The selection is of course a snapshot of this year. Looking back at the older edition of 2003 and 2005, there are many projects which perhaps have been outdated by now. But in their time they were new or exemplary. Also in this edition you will find examples of projects which have been done elsewhere in this world. Yet those examples where not sent in and the selected ones are exemplary for the trend. In the business category for example there were two projects, which were exemplary for the way of using ICT to straighten out capital lines for SMEs and cut red tape in trade bureaucracy. Nothing special, one could say. But very special in Mexico and Senegal. Of course there also were unique project like the project from Hong Kong.

In the coming days I will present the winners of the various categories and comment on the projects and the trends... In a separate posting I just will list the winners, the jury distinctions and regional mentions.

All in all it was worthwhile of all the effort put in at the WSA Grand Jury on Brijuni island in Croatia and the WSA Winners’ Conference and Award Ceremony in Venice. There was an organisation behind it with ICNM in Salzburg, the Croatian Internet Institute with Kresimir Lugaric and with our man in Italy, il Professore Alfredo Ronchi. Now the roadshows can start.

Blog Posting Number: 917


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