About the awards
The New Statesman‘s New Media Awards were launched last December to promote the effective use of the Internet in public life. The New Statesman is keen to ensure that individuals and organisations that use the Internet to encourage civic participation and public debate, and to provide greater access to public information, should receive the appropriate recognition.
The winners were announced at a special ceremony on 1 July, where awards were presented by Jack Cunningham MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office.
Although the new media industry is as fond as any other of self-congratulation (there were at least two other new media awards ceremonies in the same week), the New Statesman awards are very different from the others. They look at the political effectiveness and influence of websites and mailing lists, at ways in which MPs and other elected representatives are using the technology and at how government departments, executive agencies, local authorities and other public bodies are adapting their working practices to take advantage of the web and the Internet. As such, they do not just reward achievement: they consider the motivation and potential of projects. Even brave failures deserve to be recognised when they change the way that others think.
And while the judges were impressed with the quality of the nominations, there were still many areas of political activity that went unrepresented – sites for disabled people, charity campaigns and sites for those who do not have English as their main language, for example. All of these, it is to be hoped, will come forward for consideration next year, when the awards are held again.
The Merit Award, for the person – or people – whose work has served the public interest in developing a democratically accountable civil society during the previous 12 months, was awarded jointly to Tom Loosemore and Stefan Magdalinski for their work on the Stand website.
Stand, a campaign to educate MPs about the technical and political details of encryption technology, demonstrated an innovative and effective use of the new medium within the political process.
Scott Aikens and Irving Rappaport were both commended by the judges for their valuable contributions to on-line politics.
The New Advocacy Award, for organisations that use new technology to enhance open debate and seek to change opinions and behaviour, was awarded to the Stand campaign website for its novel approach to on-line campaigning. The judges also commended the McLibel website for the way it presented information on McDonald’s, and the libel action against members of London Greenpeace.
New Information Service
The New Information Service Award, for the organisation that best uses new technology to communicate the information demanded by a functioning democratic society in the information age, was awarded to the YouthNet site, a source of valuable information for young people.
The BBC Education Action on Human Rights site was commended for its easy-to-use and strong presentation of information about this vital issue.
New Local Democracy
The New Local Democracy Award, for local authorities and other local government agencies that use technology to empower individuals locally, was awarded to the London Borough of Newham, where efforts to provide low-cost or free access to the Internet work in parallel with an excellent on-line service. The Brookmans Park Newsletter and the Lewisham Visible Difference site were both commended by the judges.
New Public Policy
The New Public Policy Award, for those using new technology to inform citizens and to create an inclusive process of policy formation, was awarded to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions for its effort in creating a website that invites participation and presents a great deal of information in an accessible format.
Nexus was commended by the judges for its effort in developing on-line policy debates.
The New Representative Award, for the elected individual who has taken best advantage of technology to improve their relationship with the public, was awarded to Anne Campbell MP, the first MP with a website, who has continued to experiment with new ways to use technology to reach her constituents. The judges commended Margaret Moran MP.