Prize Advisory Panel and Management
A distinguished Advisory Panel of national leaders in public interest computing plays a critical, ongoing role in shaping and administering The Pizzigati Prize, serving as ambassadors for the prize initiative. Panelists, chosen through an application process administered by Tides Foundation, have shaped the basic guidelines for the prize submission review process and select the prize awardees. Winners of the Pizzigati Prize also serve on the panel for three years after they win.
Current Advisory Panel
Vishwas Babu won the Pizzigati Prize in 2015. Vishwas is the lead engineer at the Mifos Initiative where he works on building an open technology platform for financial inclusion to the poor. He is also a co-founder of Conflux Technologies Private Limited, an organization based out of Bangalore, India which provides a multitude of financial solutions targeted toward microfinance institutions.
Dr. Micah Altman won the Pizzigati Prize in 2013. Altman teamed with political scientist, Michael McDonald, to develop the first software that empowers average Americans to impact the process that determines how legislative districts get drawn. The drawing of legislative districts has always been one of the least transparent — and most easily Altman and McDonald set out to break this political insider lock-grip on the electoral mapping process.The software that eventually emerged out of this effort, DistrictBuilder, runs on ordinary Web browsers. Anyone with a computer can access DistrictBuilder and use it to both create legislative maps that fairly divide political power and evaluate the maps that legislators create, usually with their own partisan outcomes in mind. DistrictBuilder has changed everything. In the redistricting that followed the release of the 2010 Census data, citizen groups submitted about 100 times as many redistricting plans as they submitted ten years earlier. Altman, now 45, earned his doctorate at Caltech and spent some years working in Silicon Valley. But he has spent most of his professional career deeply engaged with research and open-source software projects, with an ongoing interest on how technology can help open up the political process to greater levels of citizen involvement. Altman currently directs research in information sciences at the MIT Libraries in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also serves as a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Ken Banks won the Pizzigati Prize in 2011 for his creation of FrontlineSMS. An anthropologist by training, he has lived and worked all around Africa since the early 1990s. A long-time computer coder, Ken first started thinking about connecting computers and mobile phones while working on a conservation project in South Africa. In 2003, Ken founded kiwanja.net which has helped empower local, national and international non-profit organizations to make better use of information and communications technology in their work. Among his many honors, he was named a Stanford University Reuters Digital Vision Fellow in 2006, a Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow in 2008, a Laureate of the Tech Awards in 2009, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in May 2010, and an Ashoka Fellow in 2011.
Erika Bjune is co-founder of startup company Native Cloud Systems (NCS), where she steers the development of next-generation business applications with integrated social computing. She has over 20 years of technology experience across a spectrum of areas, including multimedia, education, communications, web and business application design, development, and management. Prior to NCS, Erika served as Vice President of IT at Tides, where she started and directed the Avatar Action Center—the first nonprofit organization established in Second Life. She has also been production manager for Addison Wesley Longman’s Media Lab, part-time faculty member at San Francisco State University’s multimedia extension program, and a speaker at the Technology Affinity Group conference.
Nathan Freitas has been writing code since he was seven and hasn’t stopped looking for difficult problems to solve with software ever since. A lifelong mobile technology enthusiast and winner of the 2012 Pizzigati Prize, his career has included work on academic research projects, popular consumer gadgets, award-winning digital art pieces and groundbreaking technology for activism. Currently, Nathan Freitas leads the Guardian Project, a team of software developers that have released a suite of privacy and security-minded mobile applications for Android phones. Mobile devices can be extremely unsafe for the activists who use them, as the world’s most repressive governments can exploit mobile technology to monitor and track down protestors and their organizations. All of the mobile security apps come free and, notes Freitas, “can run just as well on $100 smartphones available in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia as they do on higher-end models popular in the United States and Europe.
Past Advisory Panel Members
Yaw Anokwa, the Pizzigati Prize winner in 2010, has been the driving force behind Open Data Kit, a modular set of tools that helps mobile phones collect and deliver data on everything from deforestation to human rights violations.
George Hotelling, the inaugural Pizzigati Prize winner in 2006, founded CitizenSpeak, a free email advocacy service that enables grassroots organizations and individual activists to launch MoveOn-like email campaigns and track participation.
Joseph Mouzon initiated and completed the merger of Network for Good and Groundspring that formed the largest nonprofit Technology Service Provider in the United States. He has also been a technology pundit for Tech TV and a guest lecturer at Stanford Business School.
Barry Warsaw, the 2008 Pizzigati Prize winner, currently works with Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu Linux, concentrating primarily on the Launchpad project, a free software hosting site for open source projects.
Allison Fine directed the E-Volve Foundation, an operation dedicated to advancing open source technology. She’s the author of the 2006 book, Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and now serves as a senior fellow at Demos.
Katrin Verclas co-founded and now edits MobileActive.org, a global network of practitioners using mobile phones for social impact. She has also served as the executive director of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network.
Darius Jazayeri, the 2009 Pizzigati Prize winner, created OpenMRS, an open source software application that health clinics and hospitals on five continents are using to keep, share, and track medical record data.