5FM’s Nick Hamman catches up with Katharina Borchert on Mozilla’s Equal Rating Innovation Challenge

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January 19 2017

South African entrepreneurs named as semi-finalists in Mozilla’s Equal Rating Innovation Challenge

Mozilla is pleased to announce the selection of the five semi-finalists for the 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 residing in Cape Town, were two of the five semi-finalists announced.

Katharina Borchert, Mozilla’s Chief Innovation Officer, and Marlon Parker, Founder of RLabs announced the semifinalists and discussed the trends that were seen across submissions at an event held at RLabs on 17th January 2017.

Mozilla’s judging panel evaluated the submissions against the criteria of scalability, user experience, differentiation, potential for quick deployment, and team potential.

Each team will receive 8 weeks of mentorship from experts within the 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:

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 communications at a fraction of the cost offered by other operators

Afri-Fi: Free Public Wi-Fi

• 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.

Gran 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

Free Networks P2P Cooperative

• Team Leader: Bruno Vianna
• Location: Rio de Janiero, Brazi
• Cooperative that enables communities to set-up networks to get access to the Internet and then support itself through the cooperative fees, and while co-creating the knowledge and respecting the local cultures

Submission Trends and Themes

• Cooperatives were a popular mechanism to grow buy-in and share responsibility and benefit across communities. This contrasts with a more typical and transactional producer-consumer relationship
• Digital literacy was naturally integrated into solutions, but was rarely the lead idea. Instead it was a 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.
• Many teams considered 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.

What’s next

Following the mentorship period, on March 9th, Mozilla will host a day-long event in New York on the topic of affordable access and innovation where the semifinalists will present their work. Following the presentations and Q&A at the demo day, there will be a week of open voting on EqualRating.com to determine the winner of the Challenge.

Winners will be awarded US$250,000 and expert mentorship to bring their solution to market. The winner will be announced at RightsCon in Brussels on March 29.