We’re into our seventh year of the Manthan Award, which identifies innovators and leaders who show us that development is possible through digital technologies. Our mantra and driving parameter, Digital Inclusion for Development, is finding resonance across the world, as I discovered on a recent trip.
I recently returned from the fifth Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius, Lithuania. The forum talked loudly and meaningfully about digital inclusion, and about how the global community needs to create a digitally inclusive society. Obviously, technology and media cannot do much unless driven by meaningful, relevant content.
Also Read Osama Manzar’s earlier columns
The cues from the Manthan Award each year show how and why content assumes a critical role in bridging development-digital divides across communities in a region like South Asia.
This year, already more than 350 nominations have been received for the Manthan Award. This means the Manthan database now holds more than 2,000 best practices across various digital domains. These include governance, health, culture, business, environment, localization, science, education and digital inclusion. These nominees are not only potential winners and business successes, they are also a huge knowledge repository for research, reference and replication; in some cases, there are even failures we can learn from.
Over the past six years, the Manthan Award and its thrust on digital content have been able to create a network of about 1,000 active organizations across India and South Asia. So much so that many programmes have been launched as a result of the Manthan network.
For instance, the Digital Panchayat project, where we connected and Web-enabled 500 panchayats. Another example is the e-NGO platform, where we provide unlimited email and website space, with a dynamic website presence, to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working for grass roots development.
The number of NGOs on the platform has gone past 300 and will reach 500 by the end of 2010.
The proudest achievement of the Manthan Award is an invitation from the department of information technology to create an online repository of case-study videos, highlighting selected Manthan winners and other awardees and best practices from other award platforms. In collaboration with the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) and Mint, the Digital Empowerment Foundation is launching the Digital Knowledge Centre programme at www.contentxchange.in and also on Mint’s video platform, as Channel 2: Digital Content for Development. Our endeavour is to extend the outreach of the best practices by continuing to leverage our media and network partners.
I am glad to report that the Manthan Award and the digital content movement are now well established in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where we have already instituted national chapters and are managing them as well.
In Pakistan, we have partnered with P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) and their local awards will feed into Manthan. Nepal has been active as well, but Bhutan and the Maldives have been totally out of sync, and it continues to be a challenge to bring on board at least some nominations from these two countries.
I hope we succeed this year.
Over the next few weeks, I will keep you engaged with great stories from the ground, courtesy my travels, but also thanks to the remarkable nominations we have been receiving.
Osama Manzar is chairman, Manthan Award South Asia, which is organised by the Digital Empowerment Foundation. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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