Powering Local Innovation in the Global South: Prospects and a Way Forward
Mozilla and the Omidyar Network are thrilled to launch the new global initiative, Powering Local Innovation, focused on deepening the conversation around “local innovation” within different regions in the Global South. Our organizational partners in the Africa region (AfriLabs, Lawyer’s Hub, African Union Development Agency, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Smart Africa), and in India (Hasgeek), will bring together entrepreneurs, technologists, activists, policymakers, private sector leaders and lawyers for creative dialogue around the present and future of user technology innovation in their regions.
This initiative aims to support local innovation approaches that are empowering and inclusive of African stakeholders. Last year, we supported an event convened by Lawyer’s Hub titled “White Capital, Black Founders” that interrogated how race, nationality, and class biases limit the opportunities available to African innovators by foreign companies and investors. This was followed by a pan-African study conducted by AfriLabs on the key challenges faced by African technology entrepreneurs, that range from access to capital, legal and policy barriers, cross border collaboration, to competition as it relates to closed platforms. Meanwhile, Indian regulators have increased policy activity aimed at cultivating ‘national champions’ as well as promoting the idea of a ‘self-reliant’ Indian consumer technology ecosystem as a challenge to Silicon Valley market dominance. Notably, this wave of policy has received push back from both civil society and some sections of the start-up community who argue these moves could potentially entrench concentration of power among select domestic business elites, and risk replicating concerns with Silicon Valley business models.
Expanding on Mozilla’s Reimagine Open project, the Powering Local Innovation initiative will also explore how and if foundational principles of openness can be applied to innovation ecosystems in the Global South. Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla Corporation, has advocated that the concept of “open” should not be co-opted by systems and companies that don’t uphold the principles of access, empowerment, and opportunity that made the original open Internet so successful.
Over the next two years, our partners will implement regionally tailored activities that build on their organizational strengths. These activities will include a series of multi-stakeholder discussions, policy hackathons, news articles, research, and workshops, aimed at tackling key challenges and propose solutions facing the local Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and startup ecosystems in the Africa region and India. These activities will further the unique goals of the Africa Innovation Mradi, to leverage Mozilla’s role as stewards of the open web to promote models of innovation that are grounded in the unique needs of users in the African continent and India.
What our partners are saying about the Powering Local Innovation in the Global South initiative:
At AfriLabs we believe in the power of innovators and entrepreneurs to develop solutions for the biggest challenges in their own communities. As a continental ecosystem of 292 hubs in 49 African countries we work to ensure that opportunities, funding, tools for innovation and technical skills are available to these innovators across the continent regardless of gender, age, location, language and other factors. We are excited to work with Mozilla, Omidyar, and members of our community to power local innovation and catalyse scalable, bold and inclusive solutions rooted in Africa.
“The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) is pleased to associate with the various partners on the Mradi initiative which will contribute to local innovation across the continent. Fostering openness and frank conversations to enhance Africa’s innovation ecosystem is key towards attaining the Africa We Want as espoused in AU’s Agenda 2063”
Hasgeek fosters conversations between technologists to encourage the spread of good ideas and advance the ecosystem as a whole. Hasgeek is a partner in The Powering Local Innovation in the Global South Initiative to promote critical thinking about open source’s role in innovation in India, and the challenges that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) face with respect to adoption and use of open source and leveraging open source for innovation. Hasgeek will look at experiences from the ground, and from practitioners’ lenses.
Lawyers Hub exists to serve Africa on Digital Policy and Justice Innovation by providing innovative policy and technology-driven solutions. We are therefore elated to be participating in Mozilla’s The Powering Local Innovation in the Global South Initiative Mradi because local open innovation is the key driver to the development of local policy conversations on emerging and systemic issues. This project will culminate into a robust policy innovation ecosystem, promoting a healthier internet and safeguarding of digital rights in the African region.
Omidyar Network’s funding of this work was linked to supporting civil society actors in Africa and independent journalists so as to strengthen regulations in the digital economy, improve proposals for emerging technology by African institutions, and track digital transformation efforts in Africa.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Mozilla and Omidyar Network on this meaningful initiative. Guided by our Trust Principles of accuracy, impartiality and freedom from bias, we will be using the power of our journalism and reach to shed light on the under-reported – and little understood – issues of innovation and digital rights across the African continent,” said Antonio Zappulla, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
About the Africa Innovation Mradi
The Powering Local Innovation in the Global South initiative is a project of Mozilla’s Africa Innovation Mradi, a programme that seeks to foster an ecosystem of allies working toward a healthier internet, and promoting innovation grounded in the unique needs of users in the African region.
To find out more / for inquiries, please contact Noémie Hailu, Programme Manager, Africa Innovation Mradi, firstname.lastname@example.org