Finnish winner's report from WSA Gala in Cairo

Story: Julius Tuomisto
World Summit Award winners 2011 event in Cairo

The trophies were handed over by H.E. Mohamed Salem, Minister of CIT,
Yasser El Kady, CEO ITIDA, Ossama Kamal, CEO Tradefairs International,
and Peter A. Bruck, Chairman of the WSA Board. Julius Tuomisto in the
centre, just about to grab hold on his trophy.
The World Summit Award (WSA) is a global activity to select and promote the world's best e-Content and most innovative ICT applications. It offers a worldwide platform for all who value the creative use of ICTs and who are committed to making today’s information society more inclusive.
WSA was initiated by Austria in 2003 in the framework of the United Nations' World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and is organised by a global partner network, coordinated by the International Center for New Media. WSA partners come from governments, private sector and civil society in over 160 UN member states.

The jury selected five projects in eight categories to be awarded. Finnish producers did extremely well this time; three of the eight projects nominated were awarded. The Finnish WSA winners are:

For Category e-Business and Commerce - HammerKit Studio
For Category e-Science and Technology - – Making movies with a screensaver
For Category e-Inclusion and Participation - Epooq

Tampere University of Applied Sciences produced the WSA Finland competition in cooperation with MindTrek Association, the Finnish WSA Expert Panel member is Cai Melakoski.

All Finish winner representatives participated in the winner events and the Gala in Cairo, Julius Tuomisto (Renderfarm), Paula Holst (Hammerkit) and Ilkka Tiainen (EPOOQ)
Paula Holst just got her trophy. WSA Board member Manar Al Hashash in
the rostrum.

The Art&Media Blog asked them about the experience after the gala. Julius Tuomisto promised to write a guest post (below), Paula Holst (PH) and Ilkka Tiainen (IT) happily answered our questions:

What are your foremost impressions about WSA and the winner events:
PH: The World Summit Award was a warm spirited and well coordinated event showcasing some of the best e-content solutions in the world. We were very happy to be able to experience it first hand in Egypt. The diversity of the applications arriving from all over the world was a great spark for discussion as well as in showing how both global as well as local issues can be solved with ICT.
IT: The trip to the World Summit Awards Cairo 2012 event was a very positive experience. The event was well organized. It enabled interesting conversations with people around the world. It offered first row seats to see the best of the world e-content solutions. And most importantly it was great networking for the future! On behalf of EPOOQ service the Oppifi team wants to thank you all. Especially thank the WSA team for organizing the event.
Peter A Bruck shaking hands with Ilkka Tiainen, Ilkka has
the trophy at last in his hand!

Did the recognition awarded by WSA and the trip to Cairo benefit you business in some way? 
IT:  I´m sure there will be a lot of positive impacts from winning the WSA 2011 e-inclusion and participation category. We are now following up the contacts created during the Cairo event and are working hard to initialize the first international EPOOQ projects for the benefit of all interested in recollection and lifestory service for the grandparent generation around the world.
PH: The WSA award is certainly a valuable recognition for Hammerkit. Being showcased as one of the best within the e-business and commerce category has boosted our credibility in the process of implementing our new strategy. The networking at the event was also good and there were some interesting connections and ideas gained.

Julius Tuomisto: WSA winners event in Cairo, the full story
(all photographs also by Julius Tuomisto)

Having recently returned from the WSA gala held in conjunction with Cairo ICT 2012 I was asked to put together a short blog post and report about how it all went. This is my take on those few short, but inspiring days in amazing Cairo.

Having started my travels early in the morning, I got to Cairo, Egypt for the evening of the 25th of April 2012. The formal program was starting the next morning, but our Austrian and Egyptian hosts had prepared an informal get-together for the evening. This was good as it meant we would get to know our hosts and fellow winners who had already arrived to the event by then. After the evening’s program, a small group of us followed it up with some late dinner in a nice Egyptian restaurant close to the hotel. In my first evening I already made friends with other winners, such as Sebastián from, a service that runs competitions for companies and their employees wanting to cut back on their ecological footprint) and Karim / Faris from, a service that offers paperless eTendering solutions for building construction – obviously a booming business in the United Arab Emirates right now).

Thursday morning we got up early to take our WSA bus ride to the Cairo ICT fair. There we’d been invited to the opening ceremony of the fair hosted by the Egyptian Minister of CIT (Communications and Information Technology) Dr. Mohamed Salem. As the surroundings were very official and well put together, with multiple video cameras pointed to the stage it was easy to imagine that some years before the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak might have given a speech in the very same place.

Magnificent trade show floor
After the ceremony, we were free to visit the WSA trade show floor for the first time. To be honest I was amazed at how much expensive floor space our Egyptian hosts had graciously granted to us WSA winners. Each winning category had it’s own large screen and computer which could be used for demoing. At this point I spent an hour to go through some more of the other winners. Among others I got to know Nidia and Marisela from the fantastic poetry and biography site (btw. La Maja Desnuda, or the Nude Maja, is a famous painting by Francisco Goya). Originally a radio show that has been running for over 20 years in Venezuela, Nidia and Marisela have collaborated for years on creating a real living online extension to their show. The site lists over 900 poets from around the world reading their poetry. Interestingly, there are multiple entries from Finland as well!

Meeting the Finnish winners!
After spending the day at the booth (I got to know a lot of amazing people, but I can’t list all or this text would get too long) we got a short breather at the hotel before heading out to the WSA winners reception hosted at the Austrian ambassadors house. During this time the winners got to meet a number of ambassadors (there were at least seven or eight present from countries like China, Russia, Estonia, Finland, Germany and so on). At this point I also got to know the two other Finnish winners, Ilkka from ( Epooq offers a kind of a “memory” service where users are able to place their memories in timelines that can be recalled and relived) and Paula from (Hammerkit offers a unique service concept for creating repeatable web solutions for companies in need of them). Together with Ilkka and Paula, we also managed to get a nice group picture together with the Finnish ambassador to Egypt, Mr. Roberto Tanzi-Albi and his lovely wife Anu.

Meeting the Pyramids and the Sphinx!
Friday was perhaps the most expected part of our journey as we were to visit Giza. Since I was a little boy I’d always wanted to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx up close and now I got my chance. They didn’t disappoint – in fact they were even bigger than I expected. I was about to get a lesson in Arabic humor as my new friends Saeed and Mohamad (who are behind  – an e-book reader for Arabic language content on the Ipad) convinced me to sitting on one of the camels taking the tourists around the Pyramids. Playing the game, I followed their instructions (quote: “We’re not going to let the Camel get up – just a quick photo while the camel is sitting down!” –Saeed) and after a quick exchange in Arabic between the guys and the Camel drivers found myself unwittingly going for a ride on the camel while the guys themselves continued on to the Pyramids. Needless to say I needed quite some haggling skills and a bit of money (in the end I paid 150 Egyptian, apparently a bargain I was told later) to regain my photo camera from my “new friends” the Camel drivers. Fun times! ;)

After experiencing Giza, we did a quick stop at the hotel to change clothes and continued to the ICT fair again. The WSA winners sessions were about to start. In the sessions I learned of many more fantastic initiatives, such as DigiD from the Netherlands, World of Habsburgs from Austria and Sumo from Ireland.
Cairo Citadel - the venue of the gala

Gala evening at famous Cairo Citadel!
The day ended as well as it had started. The WSA winners gala event was being hosted at the prestigious Cairo Citadel. A thousand year old fortress built on one of the highest hills in the city it is truly a place to visit. Lit up for the Cairo ICT fair, the inner courtyard overlooking the city was filled with VIP’s. The funniest thing of all was that we seemed to be the guests of honor for the evening. Being asked to get on stage in these amazing surroundings and getting handed the WSA prize by Professor Peter Bruck and Minister of CIT Dr. Mohamed Salem, I’m pretty sure all of us winners felt for a short while like we’d been to the Oscars. Good food, great company and clear night overlooking beautiful Cairo will have made sure this was a night I won’t easily forget. Huge thanks goes to our Egyptian hosts for the whole evening.

From Pharaonic times to the revolution
Saturday started early as we had to leave the hotel by 8AM to reach our first destination, the Cairo Smart Village. Located outside of Cairo, the Smart Village is a concept that offers soft-landing services and excellent facilities for companies wanting to make offices in Egypt. Without a doubt the most interesting part of our visit to the Smart Village came last, when we entered the CultNat, the Egyptian Center for Documentation of Cultural & Natural Heritage. A fantastic mix of culture and technology awaited us as we entered the facility. We were shown, among other things, the Culturama (you can see a short demo at - an interactive video wall arranged in a timeline with different content ranging from the Egyptian Pharaonic times to the 18 days of the recent Egyptian revolution. Indeed as much as I love the stories of Ancient Egypt, it was the sheer power of the 18 days of revolution transcribed by photos, video and audio entries from regular people that really moved me. To think that all that happened just a year ago!

After the visit we returned to ICT Cairo to continue the WSA winners presentations. My presentation turn eventually came and I got to present the thing I’ve been conceptualizing and managing for over five years of my life. is the worlds biggest open volunteer computing based rendering service. Rendering is a complex computational task where lights bounce of different surfaces and materials, creating the final image. In order to produce realistic looking graphics – a lot of computational power is required. Combining volunteer computing and Blender – the worlds most popular open source 3D suite – gives anybody the theoretical power to create a new Shrek or Toy Story. Because is based on volunteer computing, it can be kept free for everyone – for always. In case you are interested in finding out more in fun way, do check out our popular “What is feat. Big Buck Bunny” animation on Youtube!

After a full day of presentations (and there were so many great ones: Hootsuite, Pordata, Wikigoviya to name just a few), we drove back to the hotel to get a quick rest. It was the last night and time for the wrap up party. Hosted on one of the restaurant boats cruising up and down the great Nile, we were treated to some local dance and music performances while enjoying a dinner (and complimentary juice – remember that in Egypt alcohol is very hard to come by).

The final thing we did Sunday morning (and which I had time to attend) was a collaborative reflection session on how did we experience the event and what worked and what didn’t. It was so nice to hear that everybody else had enjoyed their time as much as I had. In the end I think everybody agreed that above all, the reason why everything was so enjoyable was the amazing amount of work our Austrian organizers and Egyptian hosts had put in to the whole event.

All in all, the trip was such an awesome professional and personal experience that I think I’m still trying to dissect its impact on myself. I made some amazing e-content discoveries and got to know a lot of genuinely nice and smart people from all over the planet. Some final words: If you ever get a chance to take part in the WSA, you should go for it!

PS. Greets from Finland to all my new friends around the world and special cheers to all the nice ladies behind the organization: Eva, Nora, Anna, Anna and Lucia! :)


Julius Tuomisto
Project Manager, / SCI-BUS (SCIentific gateway Based User Support, EU FP7 Infrastructures)
Laurea University of Applied Sciences

Twitter: @RenderfarmFi & @JuliusTuomisto producers: Julius Tuomisto, Janus Bager Kristensen, Co-producers: Jesse Kaukonen, Olivier Romand, Nathan Letwory
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