The internet has not yet been converted into a giant online shopping mall. There are thousands of projects big and small working online around the world that prove that the internet can be, and is being used, as a powerful tool for development and social justice.
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has been working with non-governmental organisations, activists, and social movements since 1990 to facilitate their work through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The APC Betinho Communications Prize was launched to mark APC’s tenth anniversary in 2000, and to recognise and document outstanding examples of how the internet can make a real difference for the world’s communities today.
The prize commemorates the inspirational life and work of Herbet de Souza (Betinho), a visionary Brazilian social activist.
APC’s objective was to recognise ICT for development efforts, and to extract some of the lessons learned in order to make them accessible to others doing related work.
Nominations were judged according to these three main criteria:
1. Positive Economic Contribution
- The project demonstrates a positive economic contribution to the community
- Has a long term vision for sustaining impact which includes training and developing local expertise
- Provides an equal opportunity for participation by the community regardless of sex, religion, political persuasion or income levels
- Is documented so that others can learn from the model
2. Driven and Developed in Latin American and Caribbean
- Developed and implemented by people and/or organisations based in Latin American and Caribbean
- Must be local and community-based
3. Sustainable use of technology
- Offers or makes use of technology that is available and supported locally
- Demonstrates an understanding of the relationship between technology and the needs of the community on the ground.
Extra points were awarded for projects that predominantly use free and open source software and projects that utilise LAC’s natural resources (e.g. solar or wind power)
THE PRIZE WAS OPEN TO: Civil society organisations, community-based groups, networks, and social movements anywhere in LAC. Applications were accepted in Spanish, Portuguese and English.
THE PRIZE: USD$ 7,500.00 was shared amongst two winning initiatives.
In December 2005, APC awarded the $7,500 USD prize to two outstanding information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives.
The Betinho Prize winners in 2005 were:
- Radiotelecentros, CEMINA, Brazil
- Programa Redes -Telecentros Comunitarios, FLACSO, Chile
Each received a prize of $3,750 USD.
Two projects received honourable mentions:
- MetaReciclagem, Brazil
- Cultural audiovisual production and promotion, Colombia
APC’s Communication Prizes
APC’s Communication Prizes were initially conceived in 1998, as a means to recognise and document the work of organisations that best exemplify socially meaningful use of ICTs by administering a yearly award. The first of these prizes, the “Betinho” was publicly launched in May 2000 to coincide with APC’s own tenth anniversary. In 2001, the Hafkin Prize was established to focus specifically on socially meaningful ICT achievements in Africa. From 2002, APC offered only one prize per year, alternating each year between the Betinho and Hafkin Prizes. For 2003 and 2005, the Betinho Prize was awarded to Latin American and Caribbean initiatives only.
Each year, specific activities include:
- Defining the theme and eligibility criteria
- Convening a working group and jury
- Establishing a decision-making procedure
- Determining the formats for collecting and presenting the stories of the award nominees
- Revising the prize website
- Translating the finalist applications for the website and jury process
- Planning the actual award presentation
- Developing a promotional campaign and dissemination strategy for the award, the winner and the finalists’ stories
- Evaluating the process and the results, and modifying the following year’s processes based on the lessons learned
- In 2006, we have reviewed the prizes in view of the fact that APC now offers four prizes in total.
In our reporting for IDRC/ICA over the last four years, we have consistently surveyed the winners and finalists of the most recently concluded prizes. In addition, in our September 2005 report, we investigated the medium-term impact of the prizes for prize winners and finalists – reporting on our findings regarding the Betinho Prize 2003 finalists – and in April 2006 we reported on the long-term impact of the prizes for prize finalists of the 2002 Hafkin Prize.
Our conclusions are that the APC prizes play a significant role by recognising and rewarding real life examples of how the internet can be, and is being, used as a powerful tool for development and social justice. We see that there is value to publicising and promoting small and medium size grassroots ICT initiatives that embody APC’s core development values such as community-initiated, -driven and –managed ICT projects.
The majority of finalists that have responded to us in surveys since 2002 have confirmed this.
However we feel that our approach to awarding the prizes needs to be renewed. Since the APC Communications Prizes started in 2000, the number of prizes offered in the ICT field has increased significantly. At the time of reporting, APC also now offers four prizes.
Feeding from the experience gained throughout these years and taking into account other award initiatives, we feel that it’s time to make changes in the way we offer our prizes. In this regard, we are thinking of re-branding the prizes under one umbrella (e.g. The APC ICT Prizes), with multiple categories which will include the current prizes (regionally focused through Hafkin and Betinho, and thematically focussed through gender and FOSS). This will allow us to continue awarding the outstanding initiatives taking place in Africa and LAC while allowing us to promote the currently offered prizes more efficiently and improve our dissemination of results.
There is no current funding to offer the Betinho and Hafkin prizes from 2008. APC is in talks with a number of funders.