Internet Society presents award to Venezuelan EsLaRed organisation
For the first time, an organisation has been presented with the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award, rather than an individual. The Fundación Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes (EsLaRed) has worked on introducing internet solutions in Venezuela, all of Latin America and also on the African continent since 1992. Ermanno Pietrosemoli, EsLaRed's President, accepted the award presented by ISOC President Lynn St. Amour at the 73rd meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in Minneapolis. Lynn St. Amour said that by giving the award to an organisation, the Internet Society wanted to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Jon Postel. So far, the society has selected well-known personalities for their services to promote the internet. The award has been presented since 1999, when it was posthumously given to the "heavenly father of the internet", Jon Postel.
EsLaRed started with the connection of its own university in Mérida, Venezuela, in 1991-1992. In his acceptance speech in Minneapolis, Pietrosemoli said: "the internet is of far greater value to the developing countries than to the industrialised countries, which have many different sources of information." He said before the introduction of the internet, his university had neither current text books nor current specialist magazines. "Magazines were usually several years old before they reached the university". This changed drastically with the internet, said Pietrosemoli, who together with three colleagues used a gap semester to start EsLaRed.
The decision to focus on all of Latin America, not only on Venezuela, was made to attract more funding. In 1995, EsLaRed first started to use its accumulated knowledge for establishing similar budget networks in Africa and for providing local training there. At the time, EsLaRed supported students in Nigeria who worked on introducing the internet there. Like in Mérida, packet radio was used for setting up a network. Pietrosemoli has travelled to Malawi for the organisation's most recent project.
Pietrosemoli intends to use the $20,000 of prize money to upgrade EsLaRed's equipment. The project is still run on a voluntary basis. Pietrosemoli is the organisation's only full-time staff member. EsLaRed has links to numerous partners, for example the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the Network Research Startup Center (NRSC) at the University of Oregon.
In an interview with heise online, Pietrosemoli also mentioned the WirelessU.org project and the Wireless Networking in the Developing World book about budget WLANs. He said that while the World Summit on the Information Society has created awareness with the political leaders in the last few years, it hasn't made a difference to the tight education and aid budgets.