Semifinalist Announcement Event Recap

On 17 January, 2017 Mozilla, together with RLabs, a social enterprise focused on digital learning, community building and social innovation founded by Marlon Parker, one of our judges, co-hosted the announcement event for the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge semifinalists at the RLabs office in Cape Town, South Africa.

Mozilla Chief Innovation Officer Katharina Borchert, Mozilla Senior Global Policy Manager Jochai Ben-Avie – the moderator for the event – and RLab Founder Marlon Parker kicked off the evening by sharing Mozilla’s vision on Equal Rating and the broader implications of the Challenge.

When asked to explain why the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge was important, Katharina called for RLab alumni, Eric Coetzee, to share his story. Eric spoke of his path and the transformative impact being connected to the Internet has had on his life. With captivating and poignant words he spoke of the struggles in his youth, how he discovered the Internet through RLabs back in 2014, and how this encouraged him to eventually finish school. Ever since, he has been shaping his own future and helping others, providing hope and guidance. Being at the age of 24 he already founded 2 companies, INETWIZ and Green E-Waste Recyclage. Ending his very personal story by saying that being connected made him ”walk in the light” was clearly one of the emotional highlights of the event and underscored the power and potential of the internet to change people’s lives.

Following Eric’s engaging speech, Marlon announced the five selected semifinalists. Katharina emphasized how proud she was of the global scale and the overall high quality of the submissions from 27 countries around the world. “The level of engagement but also of the seriousness and quality with which people think and innovate around the topic of connectivity and digital inclusion has been outstanding,” she said. At the event we also had the opportunity to recognize our 2 South African semifinalists, Afri-Fi and Zenzeleni Networks, whose projects leads were both in attendance.

The final speaker of the evening was Chenai Chair from Research ICT Africa, a Cape Town based think-tank who hosts an African-wide ICT policy and regulatory research network established a decade ago with the purpose of developing the data and analysis necessary for evidence-based ICT policy and effective regulation on the continent and one of Mozilla’s Equal Rating research partners. Chenai shared valuable insights from Research ICT Africa’s recent field research in Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa. We are very much looking forward to hearing and reading about more findings later this year.

Thanks to everyone who made this such a remarkable evening and milestone on our journey!

Here’s a short video from the event:

Next steps:

  • 18 Jan – 8 Mar 2017: Mentorship period for our semifinalist teams to advance their projects.
  • 9 Mar 2017: Demo Day in New York City, a day-long event on the topic of affordable access and innovation on which the semifinalists will pitch their solutions to the judges. Demo Day will be livestreamed to the website.
  • 10 Mar – 16 Mar 2017: Community voting
  • 29 Mar 2017: Winners announcement