Sahana wins 2006 Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit


As reported here, Sahana has won the 2006 Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit awarded by the Free Software Foundation.

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit is presented to a free software project that intentionally and significantly benefits society through collaboration to accomplish an important social task.

As noted in the press release:

Richard Stallman, President and Founder of the Free Software Foundation, in presenting the award said, “We were inspired to create this award when we heard of the tremendous good the Sahana project was able to achieve through the use of free software. With this award we give recognition to their efforts.”

The founding team, made up of Sri Lankan technology workers, worked around the clock for three days to produce the first release of the software that was quickly adopted by their country’s government. The software resolves common coordination problems that arise during a disaster and thus facilitates the search for missing people, aid and volunteer management, and victim tracking across refugee camps.

Sahana is built completely on donated funds and volunteer effort coordinated by Lanka Software Foundation. It has been officially deployed by the governments of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Philippies, and Indonesia. It was also part of the Strong Angel III, a test of US civil and military disaster response.

Some photos here.

Just after posting my last entry on Sahana a few days ago, I discovered I was at a meeting in Geneva with one of the co-authors of the report, Bartel Van de Walle.

The world’s a small place.

Even at SA III, I suggested to Chamindra that Sahana modules could help in the development of support systems for human rights protection, conflict transformation issues such as reconciliation processes and peacebuilding in general. For example, I’m looking closely at some of the Sahana modules (such as the Camp and Victims Registry’s) to see whether they can be integrated into a human rights advocacy, reporting and violations mapping system that I’m helping develop and wrote overall concept note for in Sri Lanka.

It would be interesting to engage Chamindra and the Sahana team on issues of information / data security, since that’s one of the key questions I get asked (getting mistaken all the bloody time for being closely associated with Sahana’s development – which is flattering, but untrue) from those interested in using it for more than humanitarian purposes, but are wary of what they perceive to be a model not robust enough for field and HQ deployments in severe conflict zones such as that which Sri Lanka has become over the past year.

Perhaps an idea for an interview with Chamindra on this blog in the near future! 🙂

Congrats to all those at Sahana.

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