NZ scientist wins award for social use of IT

A New Zealand computer scientist has received an international award for his role developing digital library software that is used in developing countries.

Ian Witten, of the University of Waikato’s computer science faculty, will receive the Namur award at a ceremony in Belgium next January. The Namur award is presented every two years for an “outstanding contribution with international impact to the awareness of social implications of information technology.”

Witten has been recognized for his work with the New Zealand Digital Library project, which produces the Greenstone digital library software. Greenstone is used in a number of developing countries such as Uganda, as well as the U.S., Israel, South Africa and Russia.

The Greenstone software publishes texts on CD-ROM or the Internet, allowing a large quantity of material to be available and a much lower cost than printed books. It is multilingual, released under the open source GNU license, and will run on a wide range of Windows, Unix, Linux and Macintosh systems. Supported languages include Maori, Arabic and Hebrew.

Past recipients of the Namur award are Deborah Hurley, director of the Harvard Information Infrastructure, and Professor Simon Rogerson of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility within the faculty of computing sciences and engineering at De Montfort University in the U.K.

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