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Indian journalist beats Edward Snowden to win 2014 Google Digital Activism Award

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Updated: March 21, 2014, 7:56 AM IST
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Indian journalist beats Edward Snowden to win 2014 Google Digital Activism Award
Shubhranshu Choudhary is the founder of CGNet Swara, a medium of communication for people on the wrong side of the digital divide.

New Delhi: Journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary is the winner of the 2014 Google Digital Activism Award. Choudhary conceptualised CGNet Swara (Voice of Chhattisgarh), a mobile-phone service that allows citizens to post and listen to local reports in their local language using basic mobile phones.

Shubhranshu Choudhary is a Knight International Journalism Fellow and the founder of CGNet Swara. He previously worked with BBC and Guardian and was also a reporter at the Hindi-daily Deshbandhu. The awards were announced at an event in London on Thursday.

The Google Digital Activism Award is a part of the Index Freedom of Expression Awards, that honours achievers in four different categories: advocacy, arts, digital activism and journalism.

Other nominees for the 2014 Google Digital Activism Award were whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked thousands of documents related to US government surveillance; TAILS operating system, an open-source encryption tool that helps protect free online communication between journalists and sources; and Free Weibo, an uncensored version of Chian's largest social network SinaWeibo.

CGNet Swara is a medium of communication for people on the wrong side of the digital divide. According Choudhary, there are some 100 million people in India for whom mainstream methods of communicating news don't work and his CGNet Swara aims to solve the problem.

CGNet Swara is voice-based. 'Reporters' call a Bangalore phone number to post a news item, and the reported stories are moderated and are accessible over the phone and also on the Internet. The service receives about 500 messages per day of which 50 are recorded and about 5 are broadcast. The moderators are also elected by the community.

"If we want a better democracy, a peaceful tomorrow we can not leave Journalism in the hands of few any more. Time has come like politics, Journalism also needs to become everybody's business. And it is possible," Choudhary said accepting the award.

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