Wednesday, May 04, 2005

World Summit Award: “Nobel Prize of Web Awards”, says Negroponte

Yesterday was an exciting day. Andy Carvin, Program Director of the EDC Center for Media & Community in Boston, triggered off an e-mail burst in the World Summit Community. He announced: “I'd like to announce the official opening of the World Summit Award USA competition. An official event of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the World Summit Awards will take place in more than 150 countries around the globe”. This is great news. Just like in the USA the World Summit Award competition is now coming to life in many countries such as Finland, Bahrain, Japan, Belgium, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Italy and Romania; just to name a few of the 50 countries having national contest.

The World Summit Award (WSA) is a global initiative, launched in the framework of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). It seeks to demonstrate the benefits of the Information Society in terms of the new qualities in content and applications, by selecting, presenting and promoting the best-practices from all over the world with a special emphasis on bridging the digital divide. The initiative was taken in 2003 to have a best practice competition in the framework of the WSIS, which was going to be held in Geneva (Switzerland) in December 2003. A gaming plan in order to involve as many people and countries as possible was set up. In less than three months the WSA organisation had recruited more 136 experts in 136 countries, ranging from Brazil to Finland, from China to Canada, from Australia to Iceland. All the experts got the assignment to recommend and enter 8 entries in 8 categories. By the end of July 803 products had been entered for judgment by 35 eminent experts from all over the world. This resulted 40 best-practices which were honoured at a Gala during the WSA and have travelled ever since all over the world. And this roadshow is accompanied by ICT Summit Conferences like the one in Bahrain in a fortnight’s time and the Vienna conference on ICT and Creativity in one month time.

As the WSIS has a second leg, which will be held in Tunis in November, we started the second round of the WSA again. By now there are national experts in 168 countries, recommending 8 national entries to be judged in Bahrain by the end of August and to be presented at a Gala in Tunis.

As you can imagine this project has yielded a very intense worldwide network. Especially the eminent experts of the jury in Dubai still have a close bond. Of course this could be predicted as this jury also delivered a book e-Content: Voices from the Ground printed and bound in 40 days. And today it showed again.

After Andy’s announcement Alexander Felsenberg, our German WSA representative and one of the spokespeople for the WSA 2003 Grand jury came online, followed by Merlyna Lim the WSA representative for Indonesia. She told the WSA Dubai discussion group that she had organised the WSA competition in Indonesia and will have an award ceremony on July 17th, 2005 for the entries to be submitted to the Grand Jury. Then the spin in the web, Anastasia Konstantinova from the WSA office in Salzburg came online, followed by Md Akteruzzaman from Bangladesh and Kresimir Lugaric of Croatia. This all happened in a matter of a few hours.

More than 50 countries will have a national WSA contest. Wherever there is already a local competition, the results from this competition will be used to submit 8 products or services to the Grand Jury. This is for example the case in The Netherlands. Since 2003 we have the competition here. So this year is the feed for the WSA. Last week the 2005 competition closed for entries and had 63 submissions. It might not look much, but the quality is excellent. And I have warned the other national experts already, as I think that there will be some Grand Jury nominees in this batch. But that is not for me to judge as we have a jury with Bernhard van Oranje, a royal and e-commerce expert as chairman. By June 17 the nominations for the Dutch pre-selection of the World Summit Award competition will be known.
Logistically this WSA Grand Jury exercise is going to be a nightmare. For if all the countries hand in 8 products, the Grand Jury might have to examine no less than 1344 entries in one week in the heath of Bahrain (37 degrees Celsius by that time) and come up with 40 best-practices.

But it will be a worthwhile exercise. WSA is not like other competitions, where entries compete on technical excellence or design. But WSA competes on content, creativity and social inclusion. When WSA chairman Dr Peter Bruck told Nicholas Negroponte of MIT about the competition, Negroponte summed it up with a oneliner: the World Summit Award is “the Nobel Prize of the Web Awards.”

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