I’d like to congratulate Grisha Asmolov and Alexey Sidorenko from Global Voice's RuNet Echo project for receiving a RuNet Award [ru] for their project “Help Map” (Russian-fires.ru). It's wonderful to report that members of the GV community have received the most prestigious award in the Russian Internet. Even more exciting, Grisha and Alexey won it in the “State and Society” category, beating out a wide range of other important laureates [ru].
“Help Map” is a project to crowdsource and map unprecedented wildfires outside of Moscow in summer 2010. The project quickly became an important base for volunteers to provide resources and lend a hand during weeks of crisis. Global Voices articles covering the “Help Map” can be found in Global Voices’ Russian Wildfires 2010 special coverage, from August-September 2010.
“Help Map” was the first deployment of the Ushahidi platform in Russia and one of the more successful in Ushahidi's history. Together with other centers of aid coordination, “Help Map” was an inspiring example of online activism providing an offline change. It also demonstrated that Russian citizens will engage in civic participation when given a real opportunity to make a difference – an idea that's counter to common perceptions of Russian civic engagement as cynical and passive. As Gregory Asmolov says:
The activity of the Russian online community wasn't limited to helping wildfire victims. Bloggers created units of volunteer firefighters, went into the field and eventually provided immediate response. Along with the comprehensive instructions on how to become a firefighter, how to fight various types of wildfires, and what equipment volunteers should have, the Internet provided a platform for 24-hour coordination and exchange of information about the rapidly changing situation.
Patrick Meier on the Ushahidi blog also comments on Russian citizen engagement:
The “Help Map” demonstrated that Russian network society is not a passive audience, but it has an active core with high degree of social accountability…the “Help Map” participation and achievement is a symbolic precedent. It is the first time that the most prestigious Russian Internet state sponsored award recognizes that network society can be as important as traditional hierarchical organizations.
The “Runet Award” is sponsored by Russian Federal Agency of Mass Communications. It is the national award granted for significant contribution to the Russian Internet's development and is known as the Russia “Internet Oscar.” The Runet Award ceremony is broadcast on Russian state TV, and can be found online on the Russian news channel Vesti. Congratulations Grisha and Alex!