afiche_web20_paratodos.jpgDespite Bolivia’s low internet penetration (among the lowest in Latin America at 4.4% compared to neighboring Chile’s 36.1%, according to El Deber), the citizen media project and Rising Voices grantee Bolivian Voices is determined to spread Web 2.0 well beyond Bolivia’s connected elite. Their latest initiative, Web 2.0 for Everyone, began Friday with a public event in Cochabamba followed by a day of intensive workshops aimed at teaching more Bolivians how to make their voices heard and gain social capital from tools like Twitter, blogs, and various photo- and video-sharing websites.

Friday’s public event began with an introduction to the fundamentals of Web 2.0 by Anne Arrázola. Hugo Miranda then moderated a panel on the history of Voces Bolivianas and their training workshops.

Mario Duran, with the help of Daniel Sempertegui and Virginio Sandy, introduced Twitter, and Alexis Argüello held court while various bloggers explained how to upload photographs and videos to the web. Finally, Maria Amparo Carvajal and Nicomedes Flores discussed the use of free software to narrow the digital divide.

Nicomedes, the director of the Manuela Garandillas Center for the Blind, is helping develop an open source tool so that fellow blind internet users can more easily participate on the social web.

The public event was held at the mARTadero, which, in the words of Anne Arrázola, is an “incubator of the arts, and has the objective of responsible social transformation through culture and the arts.”

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Courtyard of the mARTadero

Already some of the attending bloggers have written their thoughts about the event. Aeromental, a veteran of the Bolivian blogosphere, wrote:

The truth is, it surpassed all expectations. It was a very well-organized event in Cochabamba – a city where there are few or none of these types of events. I hope that this is a concrete step to continue promoting Web 2.0 and blogs to all sorts of people without regard to age, religion, or economic situation. You can even meet a blogger who isn’t able to see, but can post and respond to comments.

In his introductory presentation to Twitter, El Alto resident Mario Duran described how the brief messages of Bolivian Twitter users on the day of the constitutional referendum were translated into English and Polish on Global Voices and then featured on the website of the New York Times.

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Blogger and Voces Bolivianas participant Virginio Sandy.

Tomorrow the third and final day of the “Web 2.0 for Everyone” gathering gets underway with an internal meeting for members of Voces Bolivianas. They will take advantage of their time together to meet face to face and discuss where they want to take Voces Bolivianas in 2009 and beyond.