Announcing the five innovative concepts that made it to the final round
by Katharina Borchert
About three months ago we launched this global Equal Rating Innovation Challenge to help catalyze new thinking and innovation to provide access to the open Internet to those still living without. Clearly the idea resonated. Thanks to the help of numerous digital inclusion initiatives, think tanks, impact hubs and various local communities that supported us, our challenge has spurred global engagement. We received 98 submissions from 27 countries around the world. This demonstrates that there are entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators in myriad fields poised to tackle this huge challenge with creative products and services.
Our judging panel evaluated the submissions against the criteria of compliance with Equal Rating, affordability and accessibility, empathy, technical feasibility, as well as scalability, user experience, differentiation, potential for quick deployment, and team potential.
Here are the five projects which received the highest scores from our judges. Each team will receive 8 weeks of mentorship from experts within our Mozilla community, covering topics such as policy, business, engineering, and design. The mentorship is broad to better assist the teams in building out their proposed concepts.
Congratulations go to:
Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband
- Team Leader: Prof. Abhay Karandikar
- Location: Mumbai, India
- Open source low-cost hardware prototype utilizing Television White Spectrum to provide affordable access to rural communities.
Freemium Mobile Internet (FMI)
- Team Leader: Steve Song
- Location: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
- A new business model for telecommunication companies to provide free 2G to enable all the benefits of the open web to all.
Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi
- Team Leader: Tim Human
- Location: Cape Town, South Africa
- Model to make Project Isizwe financially sustainable by connecting brands to an untapped, national audience, specifically low-income communities who otherwise cannot afford connectivity.
Free Networks P2P Cooperative
- Team Leader: Bruno Vianna
- Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Cooperative that enables communities to set-up networks to get access to the Internet and then supports itself through the cooperative fees, and while co-creating the knowledge and respecting the local cultures.
Zenzeleni “Do it for yourselves” Networks (ZN)
- Team Leader: Dr Carlos Rey-Moreno
- Location: Cape Town, South Africa
- Bottom-up telecommunications co-operatives that allows the most disadvantaged rural areas of South Africa to self-provide affordable communications at a fraction of the cost offered by other operators.
While we will disclose further information about all of these teams and their projects in the coming weeks, here are some themes that we’ve seen in the submission process and our observations on these themes:
Cooperatives were a popular mechanism to grow buy-in and share responsibility and benefit across communities. This is in contrast to a more typical and transactional producer-consumer relationship.
Digital literacy was naturally integrated into solutions, but was rarely the lead idea. Instead it was the de facto addition. This signals that digital literacy in and of itself is not perceived as a full solution or service, but rather an essential part of enabling access to the Internet.
Many teams took into account the unbanked and undocumented in their solutions. There seemed to be a feeling that solutions for the people would come from the people, not governments or corporations.
There was a strong trend for service solutions to disintermediate traditional commercial relationships and directly connect buyers and sellers.
In media-centric solutions, the voice of the people was as important as authoritative sources. User generated content in the areas of local news was popular, as was enabling a distribution of voices to be heard.
Following the mentorship period, on March 9, we will host a day-long event in New York City on the topic of affordable access and innovation. We will invite speakers and researchers from around the world to provide their valuable insights on the global debate, various initiatives, and the latest approaches to affordable access. The main feature of this event will be presentations by our semifinalists, with a thorough Q&A from our judges. We will then have a week of open public voting on EqualRating.com to help determine the winners of the Challenge. The winners will then be announced at RightsCon on March 29 in Brussels.
At this point we want to thank all who have sent us their ideas, organised or hosted an event, or helped to spread the word. We also want to thank our esteemed panel of judges for their time, insight, and mobilizing their communities. While we did have almost a hundred teams submit solutions, we also had thousands of people meeting and engaging in this content through our events, webinars, and website. With this in mind, Mozilla aims to further engage with more teams who sent us their concepts, connect them to our network, and continue to grow the community of people working on this important topic.
Let’s keep this spirit burning – not only through the end of our Challenge, but beyond.