Tomorrow at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mozilla will release an open beta of the Webmaker app: a free, independent web publishing tool. This is an important next step in Mozilla’s effort to dramatically increase digital literacy around the world.
The Webmaker app emerged from a year of research in Bangladesh, India and Kenya. The research pointed to two things: new smartphone users face a steep learning curve, often limiting themselves to basic apps like Facebook and not even knowing they are on the Internet; and users yearn for — and can benefit greatly from — the ability to create local, relevant content.
Webmaker app is designed to address these needs by making it possible for anyone to quickly publish a website or an app from the moment they turn on their first smartphone. Students can build a digital bulletin board for their peers, teachers can create and distribute lesson plans, and merchants can produce websites to promote their products.
The idea is to get new smartphone users making things quickly when they get online — and then to help them do more sophisticated things over time. This ‘make first’ approach to digital literacy encourages people to see themselves as active creators rather than passive consumers. This mindset will be critical as billions people grapple with the question ‘how and why should I use the internet?’ for the first time over the next few years.
Webmaker app is free, open source and available in over 20 languages. Users can share their creations using a simple URL via SMS, Facebook, WhatsApp and more. Content created in Webmaker will load in any mobile web browser. The current open beta version is available for Android, Firefox OS and modern mobile browsers. A full release is planned for later this year.
Complementing the Webmaker app are Mozilla’s far-reaching, face-to-face learning programs. Our network of volunteer makers, mentors and educators operate in more than 80 countries. These volunteers — equipped with the app and other tools — run informal workshops in schools, libraries and other public places to help people understand how the Web works and create content relevant to their everyday lives. Last year alone, Mozilla volunteers ran 2,513 workshops across 450 cities.
All of these digital literacy activities are driven by partnerships. Mozilla partners with NGOs, mobile carriers and other global organizations to ensure our digital literacy programs reach individuals who need it most. We’re joining forces with influential partners who share our passion for an open Web, local content creation and empowered users.
When billions of first-time Web users come online, they will find a platform they can build, mold and use everyday to better their lives, businesses and education. It’s an ambitious order, but Mozilla is prepared. To participate, or learn more about our digital literacy initiatives, visit webmaker.org/localweb.