Announcing Mozilla’s Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, a $250,000 contest including expert mentorship to spark new ways to connect everyone to the Internet.
by Katharina Borchert
At Mozilla, we believe the Internet is most powerful when anyone – regardless of gender, income, or geography – can participate equally. However the digital divide is a clear and persistent reality. Today more than 4 billion people are still not online, according to the World Economic Forum. That is greater than 55% of the global population. Some, who live in poor or rural areas, lack the infrastructure. Fast wired and wireless connectivity only reaches 30% of rural areas. Other people don’t connect because they don’t believe there is enough relevant digital content in their language. Women are also less likely to access and use the Internet; only 37% access the Internet versus 59% of men, according to surveys by the World Wide Web Foundation.
Access alone, however, is not sufficient. Pre-selected content and walled gardens powered by specific providers subvert the participatory and democratic nature of the Internet that makes it such a powerful platform.
Mitchell Baker coined the term equal rating in a 2015 blog post. Mozilla successfully took part in shaping pro-net neutrality legislation in the US, Europe and India. Today, Mozilla’s Open Innovation Team wants to inject practical, action-oriented, new thinking into these efforts.
This is why we are very excited to launch of our global Equal Rating Innovation Challenge to spur innovation for bringing the members of the Next Billion online. The Equal Rating Innovation Challenge is focused on identifying creative new solutions to connect the unconnected. These solutions may range from consumer products and novel mobile services to new business models and infrastructure proposals. Mozilla will award US$250,000 in funding and provide expert mentorship to bring these solutions to the market.
We seek to engage entrepreneurs, designers, researchers, and innovators all over the world to propose creative, engaging and scalable ideas that cultivate digital literacy and provide affordable access to the full diversity of the open Internet. In particular, we welcome proposals that build on local knowledge and expertise. Our aim is to entertain applications from all over the globe.
The US$250,000 in prize monies will be split in three categories:
- Best Overall (key metric: scalability)
- Best Overall Runner-up
- Most Novel Solution (key metric: experimental with potential high reward)
This level of funding may be everything a team needs to go to market with a consumer product, or it may provide enough support to unlock further funding for an infrastructure project.
The official submission period will run from 1 November to 6 January. All submissions will be judged by a group of external experts by mid January. The selected semi-finalists will receive mentorship for their projects before they demo their ideas in early March. The winners will be announced at the end of March 2017.
We have also launched www.equalrating.com, a website offering educational content and background information to support the challenge. On the site, you will find the 3 key frameworks that are used to deeply understand the different aspects of this topic. You can read important statistics that humanize this issue, and see how connectivity influences gender dynamics, education, economics, and a myriad of other social issues. The reports section provides further texture and depth to the different positions of the current debate. In the coming weeks, we will also stream a series of guiding webinars to further inform potential applicants about the challenge details. We hope these webinars also provide opportunities for dialogue and questions.
Connecting the unconnected is one of the greatest challenges of our time. No one organization or effort can tackle it alone. Spread the word. Submit your ideas to build innovative and scalable ways to bring Internet access to the Next Billion – and the other billions, as well. Please join us in addressing this grand challenge.