Hello from sunny Las Vegas! I am here for the E&P Interactive Media Conference at the Rio Hotel, but also to welcome the next round of winners in the Knight Foundation’s 21st Century News Challenge. These folks will soon be blogging here on Idea Lab, and it’s quite a group of winners. (To see the whole list of winners, go here, and for Knight’s press release on the winners, check this out.)

Knight Foundation CEO Alberto Ibarguen (pictured below) announced the winners at the conference this morning. I think the most exciting aspect of the next round of winners is the international focus this year. There are projects in Africa, India, and Europe, as well as the U.S. — all focused on connecting physical communities using technology and the Internet. There also seems to be a greater focus on rural communities and using mobile technology.

Alberto Ibarguen.jpg

Another top-line highlight is that Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web, will be one of the grantees for a project on transparent journalism that plans to create a tagging system for reporters so they can say how they source stories. That way, people searching for information on a particular event can then filter the search results according to the way the stories were reported.

Other interesting project winners:

> Freedom Fone in Zimbabwe will let people call into a voice database to hear audio news and pose questions on a voicemail system. It will help people in a country with little Net access get news via cell phones.

> Sochi Olympics Project will be a special website set up for the Russian town of Sochi that will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. It will help them discuss the local impact of the Olympics and share their concerns and discuss issues in the community.

> Spot Journalism will help local communities raise money to assign a reporter to do an investigative report on a subject. The site will take in money by micro-payments, triggering an assignment to a journalist if enough money is raised.

> Radio Drupal will be a turnkey platform for radio stations to set up a web presence on Drupal, including radio archives, producing podcasts and streaming video and audio online. It will run on a test station and then be offered to other stations.

> Community Radio in India will help connect rural stations in India online. Plus it will help non-profits in India start to broadcast on the radio there.

It’s been very exciting to meet the next group of Knight grantees here at the conference and I’m looking forward to seeing how their projects progress in the months ahead. Luckily, we’ll all get to follow their projects right here on Idea Lab.

What do you think about the new round of News Challenge winners? Which projects interest you the most? Is there something you think is missing in the process? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE: Oliver Luft at Journalism.co.uk asks a good question: Why doesn’t the UK have a News Challenge like Knight’s? I don’t believe that the two UK-based finalists Luft mentioned ended up winning grants this round, but hopefully other foundations abroad will step up to fund innovative programs the way Knight is doing.

Photo of Ibarguen by Kristen Taylor of Knight (formerly of PBS).