Showcasing innovation at the grassroots, the Betinho Prize
By Fausto Rêgo
RIO DE JANEIRO - BRAZIL, 01 October 2005
The Betinho prize has launched its fourth edition, and entries are being accepted till mid-October 2005. Once more, this is to benefit initiatives which make use of the internet or other information and communication technologies (ICTs) to get results that make the crucial difference. This year’s subject is "community connectivity projects for economic development".
Tiflolibros is a free virtual library for the visually handicapped, organized by a group of blind people in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires. Its brings together over 8000 digitalised books, mostly the fruit of voluntary work. That was the case up to 2003, when it became possible to gain access to resources to recruit two persons who today share the workload.
In Peru, on the other hand, the Asociación Especializada para el Desarrollo Sostenible (Aedes) runs a project called
Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación como Instrumentos de Desarollo Sostenible. Its goal is to deploy information and communication technologies as tools for sustainable development in the Cotahuasi region.
The Cotahuasi canyon — along with the Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon — is situated in the Peruvian province of La Union. Cotahuasi, at an altitude of 3535 metres, is presently thought to be the deepest canyon in the world. It offer spectacular scenery alongwith villages "as yet unaffected by the modern world," as the volunteer-crafted Wikipedia encyclopedia puts it.
There, this project uses the internet to facilitate development plans and Agenda 21 goals. In two years, the
initiative gained a new impulse with a chance to invest in improving qualification of its team.
Resources for hiring staff for the Tiflolibros and for building skills at the Peruvian NGO have the same origin:
financing offered by the Association for Progressive of Communications (APC) to the winners of the Betinho Prize.
This competition has launched its fourth edition, and entries are being accepted till mid-October 2005. Once more, this is to benefit initiatives which make use of the internet or other information and communication technologies (ICTs) to get results that make a fundamental difference.
This year’s subject is "community connectivity projects for economic development". See details at
APC logistics and events coordinator Vanessa Purper says more candidates are expected compared to the last edition. "In 2003, we had over 140 entries and this year we expect a still bigger number," she says. "The Betinho Prize is one of the only international prizes that accepts entries in Spanish, Portuguese and English. Moreover, independently of the original language of the registration, the finalist projects are translated into the three official languages of the Prize and are available on APC’s site (at apc.org)."
By way of background, the Betinho Prize was launched in 2000, the year which marked the tenth anniversary of APC’s founding. Its objective was to spread initiatives that ran parallel to the values of the organization. Including
projects born in the communities, managed for them and the benefits from which return to them.
This prize’s name was meant to be a homage to the Brazilian sociologist Herbert ‘Betinho’ de Souza. Betinho was a
sociologist and activist against economic injustice and government corruption in Brazil, and founder of the Brazilian
Institute of Social Analysis and Economics (IBASE).
In this fourth edition, the prize will total US$7,500. Two years ago, the prize was shared among three winners —
besides the two mentioned above, there also was the Aboriginal Information Network of Mexico.
It might not be a huge prize, but the projects worthy of merit also earn indirect benefits. "Most of the projects say the visibility earned during the run-up to the prize extends their network of contacts and makes it possible for new partnerships to happen," contends Vanessa Purper.
For the APC, ICTs are a prime tool to ensure wider inclusion within Latin America and the rest of the globe. "Innumerable possibilities can appear out of the strategical use of this potential," Purper observes. According to her, the internet is an essential tool of these processes and must be accessible to all, independently of class, religion and race. "The Betinho Prize is a way to encourage the communities to continue fighting for their right to the information,"
In all the editions of the awards, the course of the finalists’ projects are followed through. Its representatives are invited to answer a questionnaire on the benefits generated for the initiative. From this, it emerges that the link between participating organizations and the prize has been sufficiently positive — in terms of recognition and credibility of their projects, and impact on the community’s goals.
The Betinho Prize still serves as a showcase for other works that make use of ICTs in the Latin American and
Winners are also selected on the basis of their project offering or using available technology, with local support,
and where the work shows an ability to understand the relationship between technology and the community’s needs.
Extra points go to Free Software and Open Source-coded initiatives, as well as those that make use of natural
resources like solar energy. Participation is open to civil society organizations, community-based groups, networks and social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Applications need to come in by October 16, 2005. More information is available at
http://www.apc.org/portugues/betinho or for the e-mail betinho at apc dot org