Yesterday the Tech Museum at Santa Clara University announced the 2009 Tech Awards Laureates. The Tech Awards is a prestigious international awards program that honours innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. FrontlineSMS / kiwanja.net was one of three Laureates honoured in the "Equality" category, and one of only fifteen in total. Established in 2001, The Tech Awards recognises Laureates in a total of five categories - environment, economic development, education, equality and health. Laureates are recognised as having developed new technological solutions or innovative ways to use existing technologies to significantly improve the lives of people around the world. The Awards are sponsored by a wide range of partners which include Nokia, Intel, Microsoft, Accenture, eBay and Google.
The fact we knew about our Award a couple of weeks ago didn't make Tuesday's announcement any less exciting. It's always a great feeling to have your efforts acknowledged, and if anything this shows, at the very least, that we're heading in the right direction. A lot of work has gone into FrontlineSMS, and this Award is very much down to the efforts of a fantastic user base of NGOs big and small, incredible donors - the MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Institute and the Hewlett Foundation - an amazing team of developers at Masabi, the inspiring work of spin-off organisations such as FrontlineSMS:Medic, the faith and belief of the many bloggers who regularly write about and promote our work, the efforts of talented designers, and unlimited encouragement from friends and supporters in the social mobile space.
This Award is for all of you.
Thanks also to the person who nominated FrontlineSMS, whoever and wherever you are, and to the judges and organisers of the Tech Awards for putting their faith in our work.
I've always maintained that it's not technology that excites me, but what happens when you put technology in the hands of people. If it wasn't for the tireless work of increasing numbers of NGOs - each of whom has adapted and applied FrontlineSMS in their own unique way - we'd simply be sitting on thousands of lines of benign code.
FrontlineSMS has always been about empowerment, about lowering barriers to entry and giving people the tools they need to carry out their own social change work. This 2007 quote from the Africa Journal still spells out the ethos of FrontlineSMS better than anything:
FrontlineSMS provides the tools necessary for people to create their own projects that make a difference. It empowers innovators and organizers in the developing world to achieve their full potential through their own ingenuity
Of course, it's also helped that we've been patient - the software has been over four years in the making, and remains very much a work in progress. We know more than anyone that there's still a very long way to go. What's also key is that we've remained totally focused in an industry which innovates at such a rate it's easy to be distracted. Back in 2005 we picked a specific problem and set out determined to solve it. It's fair to say that we never quite expected things to take off as they have, and today's announcement is yet another highlight in what is becoming an incredible journey.
But the work goes on, and it's all eyes back on the next big release, due out later this month. In the ICT4D world, complacency is a killer.
Finally, it goes without saying that congratulations also go out to the other fourteen Laureates. I'm looking forward to meeting them in November, and seeing what we can all learn from each others work. It promises to be an inspiring week. o/