Major IT publisher, CNET Networks UK, has named South Africa’s Mark Shuttleworth the IT Community Hero of the Year in its sixth annual UK Business Technology Awards, held in London.

The Awards celebrate the achievements of the UK’s business technology innovators, leaders and doers. The Community Hero Award is a recent addition and was included to give due recognition to the those people, teams or organisations who make the lives of people in IT easier through building connections that foster a sense of community.

Shuttleworth was recognised for the support he had given to the community of developers working on the Ubuntu project and his commitment to a freely available operating system that can be used by anybody, anywhere in the world.

The judges said that Shuttleworth had “given great support to the community of developers working on the Ubuntu project, as well as being an active member himself.”

Centered on the philosophy of a global open source software ecosystem, Shuttleworth launched Ubuntu in 2004. The Linux system is free to download, use and distribute to others.

In recent years, Ubuntu has grown to become a highly regarded Linux distribution, winning a plethora of awards including Best Debian Derivative at the Linux New Media Awards in Germany and Best Distribution at the UK Linux and Open Source Awards. Ubuntu was voted Most Popular Desktop by users of and also featured among PC World’s 100 Best Products of 2007.

“The desktop and server versions have grown in popularity, including within enterprises, and as a side-effect, the project has also spun off tools for developers, such as Launchpad, and has worked on desktop OSes tailored to particular needs, such as Edubuntu,” said the Business Technology Awards judges.

Shuttleworth founded his first company, Thawte, in 1995. He eventually sold the company for more than R3 billion.

In 2002 he became the first African in space when he participated in a spaceflight aboard a Russian spaceship.

Shuttleworth’s non-profit organisation, the Shuttleworth Foundation, focuses on educational open-source software projects in South Africa. His venture capital company HBD, funds invests in early stage South African companies with high growth potential. – SA Good News

Shuttleworth is also the head of Canonical, the commercial company that backs Ubuntu development. Canonical is headquartered in the UK.