Last week we notified the five winners of our inaugural VNI Service Awards competition.  When we launched this program on March 26, 2013 our goal was to inspire others about the human aspect of what it means to be connected. We wanted to learn how various communication technologies were being used. How does having access to the Internet and mobile services impact the daily lives of people and their community? This is how we want to measure the value of being connected, and having access to reliable communication channels.

VNI Service Awards

The final scores were based on a combination of the judge’s scores, and a ranking assigned to the number of comments per story. It was difficult selecting the top five stories as there were many tied scores. We had to go to two decimal points to get the final list. The point spread between the five winners was only 0.75 out of a max of 5.00 points.

Grand Prize: USD $5000
Kiva Zip: Person-to-Person Lending via Mobile Banking Technology in Kenya 
Submitted by Mark Bonney, http://Kiva.org

Runner-Up: USD $2000
Building Bridges of Communication for People with Disabilities 
Submitted by Angela Tafur, GiveToColombia

Finalists (3): USD $1000 each
Healthcare Awareness through Knowledge Sharing in the Democratic Republic of Congo 
Submitted by Pierre Omadjela
Central Congo Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church

Empowering Rural Farmers with SMS
Submitted by Jimmie Ssena
Nakaseke Community Multimedia Centre and Library
Kampala, Uganda

Community Knowledge Workers: Improving Rural Farmer Productivity and Livelihoods
Submitted by Cathy Yi, Grameen Foundation

Program Highlights

The stories represented solutions across seven categories: disaster recovery, healthcare, education, economic development, social responsibility, and retail. Key metrics include:

  • 50 stories received over 23,712 views, and generated 4087 comments
  • 1400 participants represented 108 countries

The communication services utilized by the collected stories to reach their target audience include:

Service Type Solutions Using this Service
SMS or MMS 25
Social networking 11
Mobile or online video 8
Location-based services 9
Web or video conferencing 7
Instant messaging 5
Mobile or online music 5
Mobile commerce 7
VoIP 1

Basic Services Deliver the Greatest Impact

Living in the United States makes it easy to take for granted the benefits of being connected. We might use our mobile devices to watch a movie, text our teenager, or listen to an audio book. The entertainment value of being connected is easy to understand, but in many regions of the world, lives are being saved due to access to a mobile device. These are critical problems being solved allowing millions of people to live healthier, more meaningful lives. Many of the solutions described by these stories were started by small teams, with very limited funding or equipment. Their successes show that big change can come from small efforts. 

Continue to Spread the Word

We received grateful feedback from many participants about the value they achieved by sharing their work through this program. To continue their good work, and follow up for deeper discussions, we will be reaching out to a select set of participants to develop detailed case studies.  We would not want to lose track of these successes without sharing them with a broader audience. This also helps build a library of end user examples of how and why these services are being used for the greater good.

It’s not about the network, it’s what the network brings to life that makes it powerful.


We want to thank the judging panel  who spent considerable time deliberating over each story. The scores were so tight we had to use two decimal points to separate the winners. Next time we may have to resort to thumb wrestling to make the final selections.


Thomas Barnett, Jr.

Director, SP Thought Leadership

Worldwide Service Provider Marketing Group