Educators, Activists, Entrepreneurs, and Lawyers Win Berkman Awards for Internet Innovation

Winners include Esra’a Al Shafei, Richard Baraniuk, John Breen, Jeffrey Cunard and Bruce Keller, Carl Malamud, and Noah Samara

May 19, 2008

Cambridge, MA - Announced Friday, May 16, at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s tenth anniversary gala dinner, recipients of the Berkman Awards were chosen for their outstanding contributions to the Internet’s impact on society over the past decade.

The international group of winners was selected from an open nomination process and comes from a range of fields including human rights and global advocacy; academia; communications and media; and law. The five cash award winners received $10,000 with no conditions on how the funds must be spent.

“There is an amazing amount of public interest innovation and activity on the Internet, and selecting these award winners from an extraordinary field of nominees and finalists was a daunting task,” said John Palfrey, Harvard Law School Clinical Professor and Berkman Center Executive Director. “We hope that these Internet heroes will continue to lead and inspire, making the positive potential of networks a reality.”

A Berkman Award went to Esra’a Al Shafei of Bahrain, the 21-year-old director of student-owned MideastYouth.com, whose mission is “to inspire and provide young people with the freedom and opportunity of expression, and facilitate a fierce but respectful dialogue among the highly diverse youth of all sects, socio-economic backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs in the Middle East.” MideastYouth.com fights for social change with podcasts, blogs, social networks, and online video.

Engineering professor Richard Baraniuk received a Berkman Award for founding Connexions at Rice University. Connexions lets teachers share digital texts and learning materials, modify them, and disseminate them online using a Creative Commons license. This free, open-source platform is a building block towards a system of open educational resources.

John Breen was recognized with a Berkman Award for creating FreeRice.com. FreeRice asks site users to answer multiple-choice vocabulary questions and, for every correct answer, donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programme. According to the website, over 27 billion grains of rice have been distributed thus far.

Carl Malamud received a Berkman Award for creating Public.Resource.Org. Malamud is making US case law and government documents freely available online. He has also made images from the Smithsonian freely available on the Flickr photo sharing site and pushed to get broadcast-quality video of all congressional committee hearings posted online by the end of the 110th Congress. He is working with the National Technical Information Service to digitize and put NTIS’ multimedia online. Malamud is making the work of governments more transparent and providing citizens around the world with greater access to legal information.

A Berkman Award was given to Noah Samara, the Ethiopian satellite expert who founded WorldSpace, whose satellite network provides radio and data services to Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and Europe. His work has been cited as a major conceptual influence on XM satellite radio. WorldSpace was one of the most innovative uses of communications satellites when it was launched. In addition to the commercial satellite radio and data service offerings, Mr. Samara has provided the leadership to leverage the project to provide information and entertainment services to people in extremely rural parts of Africa and Asia.

The Berkman Center gave its highest honor, an award for pro bono service, to Jeffrey Cunard and Bruce Keller of Debevoise & Plimpton. Two of the leading Internet lawyers in the world, Cunard and Keller were honored for their pro bono service as lawyers and educators. Over the past five years, despite their demanding private practice, Cunard and Keller have volunteered thousands of hours as classroom and clinical teachers at Harvard Law School. For several years, on a weekly basis during the term, they have flown to Cambridge from Washington and New York, respectively, to teach in person. They have co-authored, and continuously updated, the leading treatise on copyright law in a digital era.

The awards presentation was the finale of the Berkman Center’s year-long, tenth anniversary celebration, Berkman@10, and marked the end of the Berkman@10 conference, a landmark event on “The Future of the Internet,” held on May 15 and 16, 2008, in Cambridge, MA.

About the Berkman Center
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is proud to celebrate its tenth anniversary as a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. Founded at Harvard Law School in 1997, through a generous gift from Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman, the Center is now home to an ever-growing community of faculty, fellows, staff, and affiliates working on projects that span the broad range of intersections between cyberspace, technology, and society. More information can be found at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu.

Contacts

Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Lexie Koss, 617-384-9100, lkoss@cyber.law.harvard.edu

MideastYouth.com (Esra’a Al Shafei)
(+973) 39755-355, director@mideastyouth.com

Rice University (Richard Baraniuk)
Jade Boyd, 713-348-6778, jadeboyd@rice.edu

World Food Program (John Breen)
Jennifer Parmelee, 202-653-0010, jennifer.parmelee@wfp.org
Bettina Luescher, 646-824-1112, bettina.luescher@un.org

Public.Resource.Org (Carl Malamud)
707-827-7290, carl@media.org

WorldSpace (Noah Samara)
Katie Staker, 301-960-1214, kstaker@worldspace.com

Debevoise & Plimpton (Jeffrey Cunard and Bruce Keller)
Matt Cobey, 212-909-7310, mjcobey@debevoise.com

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(Photographs of acceptance speeches were taken by Berkman Center intern Yvette Wohn.)

Last updated May 29, 2008

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