Young entrepreneurs from all over the world were honoured in Montreal this week for their work using digital technologies to bring about social change.
Launched in 2005, the World Summit Youth Awards each year recognize the best applications and Web sites created by young entrepreneurs to take action on the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty, hunger, disease, inequality, lack of education and environmental degradation.
The awards don’t come with money, but “they give you that ego boost that yes, we are doing something,” said Saransh Dua, one of the partners in GotStared.At, an Indian social media project that encourages women to discuss incidents of sexual harassment and assault. The awards gathering was also a chance to meet like-minded young people from around the world, Dua said.
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Two participants in one winning project are Canadian. Rebecca Peel is director of business development for Farmerline, a Ghana-based Web and mobile information service for farmers. She was working with Engineers Without Borders when she met Alloysius Attah, the project organizer. Alexandra Sproule, also Canadian, joined the project through Engineers Without Borders. Sproule said she has been surprised to learn the extent of cell phone use in Africa.
Attah said the project aims to give farmers information that helps them improve their lives and businesses. While he initially expected agricultural information like crop prices to be most important, he said business training has also turned out to be a major need.
A team in Egypt won in the Pursue Truth category for Morsimeter, an online attempt to monitor the performance of new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Amr Sobhy, one of the developers, said his group monitors media and other sources for information about government actions and ranks promises that have been kept, are in progress, or haven’t been acted upon.
Altogether 18 winners and 12 runners-up in six categories were honoured.
Winners in the Fight Poverty, Hunger and Disease category included Farmerline; Baltimore-based Music is Medicine, which provides music programs to sick children and raises funds for medical causes; and iWatch Nigeria, which uses crowdsourcing to monitor government activities.
One winner in the Education for All category was the Radijojo World Children’s Radio and Media Network, which aims to teach children about their counterparts in other countries. By doing this early, said Thomas Rohlinger, its founder and chief editor, “we can make them immune against prejudice.”
Other winners in this category were Funda, a South African education site and Creating Smiles – Building the Nation, a youth initiative aiming to use technology to improve health, education and job opportunities in rural Nepal.
In the Power 2 Women category, winners were Moraba, a computer game to combat violence against women; I (Heart) Being a Girl, a Belgian social media project aimed at girls; and GotStared.At.
The Create Your Culture category recognized WeStopHate, which uses social media to fight bullying and raise teen self-esteem; Young Languages, a Mexican youth education and literacy program; and Fair Play Anti-Corruption Youth Voices,a global competition for original songs by young bands against corruption.
The winners in the Go Green category were ecoCheck, a sustainability app for the iPad; Haki: Shield and Defend, an Android ecology game from Kenya; and Climate for Children, a multimedia educational tool focused on the Millennium Development Goals.
In the Pursue Truth category, Morsimeter won along with BudgIT, a Web site aimed at explaining the Nigerian budget to citizens; and Findia, a project that takes students from Europe to India for a month and where they meet residents, non-governmental organizations and others and research presentations on questions about India. Mathias Haas, one of the founders, said he was inspired by visiting friends in India and seeing the country in a different way than a tourist would see it.