We’re fueling a healthy Internet by supporting big ideas that keep the web accessible, decentralized and resilient. What will you build?
Mozilla and the National Science Foundation are offering a $2 million prize for big ideas that decentralize the web. And we’re accepting applications starting today.
Mozilla believes the Internet is a global public resource that must be open and accessible to all. In the 21st century, a lack of Internet access is far more than an inconvenience — it’s a staggering disadvantage. Without access, individuals miss out on substantial economic and educational opportunities, government services and the ability to communicate with friends, family and peers.
Currently, 34 million people in the U.S. — 10% of the country’s population — lack access to high-quality Internet connectivity. This number jumps to 39% in rural communities and 41% on Tribal lands. And when disasters strike, millions more can lose vital connectivity right when it’s needed most.
To connect the unconnected and disconnected across the U.S., Mozilla today is accepting applications for the Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) challenges. Sponsored by NSF, a total of $2 million in prize money is available for wireless solutions that get people online after disasters, or that connect communities lacking reliable Internet access.
Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge
When disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes strike, communications networks are among the first pieces of critical infrastructure to overload or fail. How can we leverage both the Internet’s decentralized design and current wireless technology to keep people connected to each other — and vital messaging and mapping services — in the aftermath of a disaster?
Challenge applicants will be expected to design both the means to access the wireless network (i.e. hardware) and the applications provided on top of that network (i.e. software). Projects should be portable, easy to power and simple to access.
Here’s an example: A backpack containing a hard drive computer, battery and Wi-Fi router. The router provides access, via a Wi-Fi network, to resources on the hard drive like maps and messaging applications.
Smart Community Networks Challenge
Many communities across the U.S. lack reliable Internet access. Sometimes commercial providers don’t supply affordable access; sometimes a particular community is too isolated; sometimes the speed and quality of access is too slow. How can we leverage existing infrastructure — physical or network — to provide high-quality wireless connectivity to communities in need?
Challenge applicants should plan for a high density of users, far-reaching range and robust bandwidth. Projects should also aim to make a minimal physical footprint and uphold users’ privacy and security.
Here’s an example: A neighborhood wireless network where the nodes are housed in, and draw power from, disused phone booths or similarly underutilized infrastructure.
These challenges are open to individuals and teams, nonprofits and for-profits. Applicants could be academics, technology activists, entrepreneurs or makers. We’re welcoming anyone with big ideas and passion for a healthy Internet to apply. Prizes will be available for both early-stage design concepts and fully-working prototypes.
Related Reading: Internet access is an essential part of life, but the quality of that access can vary wildly, writes Mozilla’s Executive Director Mark Surman in Quartz