Mozilla has selected five semifinalists for its global Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, a global initiative to help provide access to the open Internet to those still living without it.
South Africans Tim Human and Dr Carlos Rey-Moreno, both from Cape Town, were two of the five semifinalist team leaders announced.
In addition, Steve Song, a South African who is now living in Canada, is among the final five.
Katharina Borchert, Mozilla’s chief innovation officer, and Marlon Parker, founder of Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs), are part of the Challenge’s panel of judges who announced the semifinalists and discussed the trends that were seen across submissions at an event held at RLabs in Cape Town this week.
“Not giving people access to information creates a socio-economic divide, not just a digital divide,” says Parker. “Every person on the planet needs to have hope, which is what the internet is for. It gives you information, it gives you a choice, it gives you an option. This is why I wanted to be a part of this Challenge and become a judge.”
Mozilla’s 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.
Each team will receive eight weeks of mentorship from experts within our Mozilla community, covering topics such as policy, business, engineering, and design.
While Mozilla will disclose further information about all of these teams and their projects in the coming weeks, some themes occurred in the overall submission process:
* 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 9 March, Mozilla will host a day-long event in New York on the topic of affordable access and innovation where the semifinalists will present their concepts.
There will then be a week of open voting on to determine the winners of the challenge which will be announced at RightsCon in Brussels on 29 March.