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25 July 2007

New media’s brightest stars

The annual ceremony celebrated those who are transforming communities and connecting government

By William Hilderbrandt

This year’s New Media Awards highlighted the impact of digital media has on connecting a people to its government. An audience full of MPs, Lords, NGO do-gooders, journalists and technophiles cheered and applauded the winners under the stars at Westminster Abbey College Gardens.

Perhaps the most impressive example of the way new media can connect people was this year’s advocacy winner Stop The Traffik (STT). The website, which is little more than a year old, is campaigning to end human trafficking and has exploded into a global coalition of more than 800 organisations with the website now translated into 20 different languages.

Peter Stanley is STT’s strategy director and said: “A lot of our success wouldn’t be possible without the New Statesman. We’re now speaking to 120 of the largest multinational corporations, to the UN, to MTV and celebrities. We have people organising events and concerts, sending us money they raised for us that we knew nothing about.”

Indeed, the themes of all the winners were accessibility, transparency and ease of use. BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones hosted the event that showcased “old media institutions being challenged as never before”.

The dawn of the age of “eDemocracy” and the “cyber MP”, as Cellan-Jones put it, is finally upon us. David Cameron won the award for an elected representative who best uses new media technology to communicate with the electorate. The Conservative’s two sites, and, were distinguished for showing a genuine and engaging link for those in politics to communicate with the public.

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Other highlights, besides libations and canapés, were how winners managed to close not just the age gap so commonly found in technological issues, but also build social networks through services to the community. From checking the bus schedule to reporting a local problem, or from petitioning Downing Street to knowing which charity to give to, or even children with GPS units.

Ben Edge, who works for the new media company Contrapositive, said: “A year ago none of this was possible. We don’t know what will happen in the next year, or even the next six months.”

Judging from the air of the gala, it’s safe to say that nexts year’s New Media Awards will inspire again, reminding us that the uses for new media are as boundless as our creativity.

Listen to the podcast of the NMA 2007 awards ceremony.

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