Mozilla has been at the forefront of shaping internet culture and fighting to keep the Internet open. Being able to join the Board and be of service to that mission is an honor as the open internet played such an important role in my life and my work.
My generation came online to the shrill beeps of our modems connecting to this network that represented endless possibilities. Those beeps of our modems dialing up provided the soundtrack to some of our deepest friendships and community, crossing borders and breaking down barriers. I remember contributing to the SpreadFirefox.com campaign in 2004 to put an advert into the New York Times. That campaign epitomized the best of what we could achieve on the network – thousands coming together to promote the open source project that many thousands worked on that would go on to touch millions of people.
As the next billion come online, there are real questions about what sort of Internet they are coming online to. We know that it is most often through a mobile device (phone or tablet) and often the first contact is through Facebook (including WhatsApp). Navigating the usage (what role does the browser play when most people are using Apps?) and the social implications (will an even greater number of people confuse Facebook with the Internet?) are deeply important in the near term.
At Al Jazeera I was deeply focused on using social technologies to not only distribute news but also discover and amplify the voices of people being most impacted by power. With Creative Commons I worked to launch a repository of broadcast quality video footage under the most permissive license. At Global Voices, bridge building and providing a nuanced understand through a local lens is key to what we do. And at the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), we are deeply committed to funding the highest quality journalism in countries where there is a threat to press freedom.
This work has all really been around building bridges, connecting people, and amplifying voices. While our kids may never know the thrill of hearing a modem connection I hope that we can work to ensure that the Internet remains open so they can use it to learn, build, and grow in the same way we did.
Mohamed Nanabhay is the Deputy CEO of the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), which invests in independent media around the world providing the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies. He is also the board chair of GlobalVoices.org and the former head of Al Jazeera English. Mohamed was appointed to the Mozilla Foundation board in April 2017.
Photo credit: Joi Ito