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Voces Bolivianas Featured in Vamos Magazine

Rising Voices aims not just to get new communities actively participating in the conversational web, but also to introduce their voices to mainstream media outlets so that, for once, under-represented communities are portrayed by their own residents. While the majority of the ten current Rising Voices outreach projects have been covered by mainstream media organization, Voces Bolivianas takes the prize when it comes to attracting national and international media attention. The citizen media outreach project, which trains new bloggers in El Alto, Santa Cruz, and other sites around Bolivia, has been featured in El Deber, the BBC, Argentina's La Nación, and OH! Magazine. They were featured yet again this week, this time in the Santa Cruz-based Vamos magazine.

The article by Nicole Nostas is titled “Voces Bolivianas: the microphone of the forgotten Bolivianas.”

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Para los bolivianas, Internet es un medio de comunicación relativamente nuevo pero poderoso. Aún no hemos comenzado a explorar en profundidad. La poco formación e información tecnológica ahonda las diferencias que existen en la sociedad boliviana. Para suerte de muchos, existen proyectos que buscan integrar a la población a través de este medio, pero para lograrlo el primer paso es la aflabetización digital, que ya ha comenzado a dar frutos.

For Bolivians, the internet is a communications medium which is relatively new yet powerful. We still haven't begun to explore it deeply. The small amount technological development and information increases the differences which already exist in Bolivian society. Luckily, there are projects that aim to integrate our population through this medium, but in order to do so the first step is digital literacy, which has already started to bear fruit.

La voz de los menos representados
Voces Bolivianas es una organización sin fines de lucros que busca, como su nombre lo indica, darle una voz a los grupos menos representados, a través de una herramienta digital tan fácil de usar como el blog. “Nosotros les enseñamos a utilizar las herramientas básicas de la Web 2.0, a abrir un blog y a que escriban en él lo que ellos quieren”, comenta Jéssica Olivares, representante de Voces Bolivianas en Santa Cruz. Para hablar de “Voces Bolivianas” es necesario remontarse a sus antecedentes, una pagina Web llamada “Voces Globales en Línea”.

Un grupo de jóvenes universitarios norteamericanos constataron que quienes publicaban en Internet eran personas de clase media-alta, que tenían computadora e Interent en casa o en el trabajo y podían darse el lujo de navegar todos los días. Es por este motivo que crearon “Voces Globales en Línea, un sitio Web que integra las voces de los menos representados de todos lo países del mundo. Lo que esta página hizo fue darle un espacio a toda la gente para que puedan publicar artículos traducidos a 7 idiomas. Eduardo Ávila, un joven boliviano que vive en Estados Unidos, era voluntario del sitio y resumía semanalmente lo que se escribía en los blogs bolivianas.

The voice of the least represented
Voces Bolivianas is a non-profit which aims, as its name suggests, to give under-represented groups a voice with easy-to-use digital tools like blogs. “We show them how to use the basic tools of the Web 2.0 – how to open a blog, and that they can write in it what they want,” comments Jessica Olivares, a representative of Voces Bolivianas in Santa Cruz. To speak about Voces Bolivianas, it is necessary to go back to its antecedent, a web page called Global Voices Online.

A group of young North American university students found that those who publish online were from middle-upper classes with their own computers and with internet access at home or at work, giving them the luxury of surfing the web every day. It was for this reason that they created “Global Voices Online”, a web site which gathers all of the least represented voices from around the world. What this site did was give a space so that people could publish articles which were translated into seven languages. Eduardo Ávila, a young Bolivian who lives in the United States, was a volunteer for the site and summarized every week what was written in Bolivian blogs.

“Creo que aquellos blogs no representaban la diversidad del país, por eso vimos la necesidad de que otros grupos entren al mundo “bloguero” para formar parte del diálogo en la blogosfera boliviana”, recuerda Ávila, que presentó un proyecto de alfebetización digital a Rising Voices, una organización que persigue los mismo fines. Voces Bolivianas logró ubicarse entre los 5 proyectos mundiales elegidos para recibir fondos. “Este proyecto es importante porque Internet es un lugar donde todos somos iguales, donde no importa si se trata de un empresario, un obrero, un político o una ama de casa. Todos tenemos las mismas oportunidades para expresarnos en un blog. Esta gratis y fácil de usar, solamente hay que tener un poco de conocimiento. “Voces Bolivianas” trata de difundir esa información para crear un puente entre las personas, sin generalizaciones y estereotipos”, comenta. Es así como él junto a Mario Durán y Hugo Miranda, empiezan a desarrollar un taller en la ciudad de El Alto, ya que querían darle a los alteños la oportunidad de contar su vida desde un punto diferente. En septiembre de 2007, Bolivia contaba con 23 nuevos blogueros alfabetizados y activos. Según Vania Valderram, bloguera voluntaria, los participantes tenían una actitud positiva todas las ganas que necesitan para abrir un blog y mantenerlo actualizado.

“I believe that those blogs did not represent the diversity of the country, which is why we saw it as necessary that other groups enter the world of blogs in order to take part in the dialogue taking place in the Bolivian blogosphere,” recalls Ávila, who proposed the digital literacy project to Rising Voices, an organization which seeks the same objectives. Voces Bolivianas managed to place itself among the five selected projects worldwide to receive funding. “This project is important because the internet is a place where we are all equal, where it doesn't matter if you are a businessperson, manual laborer, politician, or housewife. We all have the same opportunity to express ourselves on a blog. It is free and easy to use; you just have to have a little bit of knowledge. Voces Bolivianas tries to spread this information in order to create a bridge between people without generalizations and stereotypes,” comments Ávila. This is how, along with Mario Durán and Hugo Miranda, Ávila began to develop a workshop in the city of El Alto. They wanted to give residents of El Alto the same opportunity to describe their lives from a different point of view. In September of 2007, Bolivia had 23 new and active bloggers trained in how to use new media. According to Vania Valderram, a volunteer blogger, the participants had the positive attitude and enthusiasm which is needed to open a blog and keep it updated.

The article goes on to describe how Voces Bolivianas then expanded from El Alto to Santa Cruz where Jessica Olivares led a similar workshop series in the Plan 3000 neighborhood of Santa Cruz. You can download a PDF of Vamos magazine and read the entire article in its original Spanish from their website. You can also see the pictures of and read quotes from the diverse group of new bloggers trained by Voces Bolivianas including Pedro Velasquez, a 55-year-old professor, and Kevin Ayllón, a 13-year-old student. Even if you don't speak Spanish, you can still follow the latest featured posts by new bloggers from Voces Bolivianas on the English version of their website.

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