Mozilla, an open-source software firm behind the famous Firefox web browser, launched the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge in October 2016 as part of its endeavor to help catalyze new thinking and innovation for providing open internet access to communities living without it.
Mozilla offered awards, totaling $250,000 in funding and expert mentorship to bring these solutions to the market. It received a total of 100 submissions from approximately 27 countries.
A South African innovation team that participated in the challenge presenting their idea ‘Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi‘ were announced as the Runners Up for the winning a funding award of US$75,000 with the Overall winners crown going to an innovation from India. The team from India presented Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband; an open source low-cost hardware prototype utilizing Television White Spectrum to provide affordable access to rural communities of India.
Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi is an extension of the highly awarded and successful Project Isizwe, where 2.9 million users all access 500MB of free daily WiFi data. The key goal of Afri-Fi is to create a sustainable business model by linking together free WiFi networks throughout South Africa and engaging users meaningfully with advertisers so they can “earn” free WiFi.
“Their approach towards community building, partnerships, developing local community entrepreneurs and inclusivity, with a goal of connecting some of the most marginalized communities, are all key factors in why they deserve this recognition and are leading the free Internet movement in Southern Africa, ” said Marlon Parker, Founder of Reconstructed Living Labs, on behalf of the jury.
Tim Genders, Chief Operating Officer of Project Isizwe, said, “Our next steps are to make free WiFi scalable and self-sustaining through an advertising model. We want to make free WiFi the new medium to get messages out to communities.”
Mozilla started this initiative because they believed in the power of collaborative solutions to tackle big issues and wanted to take action and encourage change.