The first deployment of Ushahidi in Russia – the “Help Map” project (Russian-fires.ru) that worked as a mutual aid coordination platform during unprecedented wildfires last summer – received the most prestigious award of the Russian Internet. The “Runet Award 2010” (Premia Runeta) was granted to “Help Map” as the best project in a category “State and Society”.

Help Map wins 'Internet Oscar'

The “Runet Award”  is sponsored by Russian Federal Agency of Mass Communication . It is defined as the national award that granted for significant contribution to development of Russian Internet and has been dubbed “the Internet Oscar.” The ceremony of Runet Award took place in center of Moscow and was covered in live broadcast by Russian state TV.

The award was received by the head of the “Help Map” Moscow based coordination center Anastasiya Severina and two co-founders of the project – Alexey Sidorenko and Gregory Asmolov. A number of volunteers and activists who worked with “Help Map” also attended the ceremony and joined the celebration.

Gregory Asmolov thanked the award committee for the prize and said that first of all the award belongs to thousands of volunteers who took part in fighting wildfire and providing help. 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. Gregory also thanked the worldwide network of amazing volunteers: software developers, moderators and coordinators who worked with “Help Map” and promised that the platform will continue its work and modification.

Help Map rocks Russia

Granting the “Runet Award” to “Help Map” has special value since it is the first time when the award was given to networked organization. The regulations of the award say that only a recognized organization with a budget can take a part in competition. As consequence, according to the rules of the award, the “Help Map” project couldn’t even be considered due to its networked nature. However, at the last moment the award committee decided to make an exception and allow “Help Map” participation in the competition.

In sum, 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. To some extent this strategic shift is even more important than receiving the award itself.

It should also be mentioned that while almost no one knew about Ushahidi in Russia a few months ago, today Ushahidi is often mentioned in discussions among the Russian Internet experts, the NGOs and the e-government communities, while the number of Ushahidi based projects continues growing.

Huge congratulations to the Help Map Team from everyone here at Ushahidi!