Locally Relevant Content Gap and Equal Rating

Our work on Equal Rating in the last year has focused on policy, innovation, and research. Through our policy work, we engage with governments, civil society, and other stakeholders around the world to advance the concept of Equal Rating, and we’ve been running a global Equal Rating Innovation Challenge to catalyze new thinking in providing affordable access to the Internet and cultivating digital literacy. We’ve also been doing research around the world, including recently at Mozfest, where we investigated the critical question: what helps people to see the value in using and paying for the Internet?

In the global discourse around how to bring all of the Internet to all people, this question is often referred to as “the locally relevant content gap,” and is one of the reasons half the world remains unconnected – there just simply isn’t enough of this content available.

As part of our Equal Rating research work to dive deeper into this question, at MozFest16 in London (28 to 30 October), we held a session entitled: “Solving for discoverability: What tech tools can help surface locally relevant content?” facilitated by Ankit Gadgil, Jochai Ben-Avie, and Nisha Malhan.

Unpacking the problem

At our session in London, we posited that there are at least four lenses through which it’s useful to think about the locally relevant content gap:

  1. Lack of content creation: There just isn’t enough locally relevant content being created;
  2. Lack of monetization opportunities: There is locally relevant content being created today, but due to challenges of monetizing this content, content production isn’t sustainable;
  3. Lack of localization: While locally relevant content exists, it is not sufficiently local, translated, or localized;
  4. Lack of discoverability mechanisms: The major internet interfaces, namely browsers and app stores, typically highlight the products of big, Western companies or a user’s most frequently visited websites, and are not optimized to surface locally relevant content.

Notably, these four problems lend themselves to very different solutions and interventions. In order to keep our session at Mozfest focused, we honed in on this fourth lens: the lack of discoverability mechanisms. To make this more concrete, the group discussed possible product ideas that could help to more effectively surface locally relevant content. Two ideas stood out: 1) making better use of and more prominently displaying maps in the browser (which increasingly have significant amounts of local information), and 2) instead of showing users their most frequently visiting websites or the most frequently downloaded apps globally, allowing users to switch to viewing the most frequently visited websites or the most frequently downloaded apps in their local area.

Research -> Innovation

With more than half the world still offline, it’s clear that we need to both enhance our understanding of the barriers to accessing the internet as well as to develop new thinking and tools to bring the internet to all. That’s one of the reasons we launched the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, which offers $250,000 USD and expert mentorship to spur innovation in providing affordable access and cultivating digital literacy. More information about the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge can be found at: https://equalrating.com.

It’s clear from our and others’ research that solving for the locally relevant content problem is both critical to helping to bring the Internet to all and an area ripe for further innovation.