South African Team Emerged Runner’s-Up in the Mozilla’s Equal Rating Innovation Challenge

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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.

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 (roughly 272 million UGX) with the Overall winners been crowned 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.

The global competition by Mozilla called for creative and scalable ideas to provide affordable access to the full diversity of the open internet.

Mozilla offered awards, totaling to US$250,000 (roughly 903.8 million UGX) in funding and expert mentorship to bring these solutions to the market. It received 100 submissions from 27 countries where only five entries where finally shortlisted for the grand finale – Two entries were from South Africa, One from; India, Brazil, and Canada.

The key goal of Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi is to create a sustainable business model by linking together free Wi-Fi networks throughout South Africa and engaging users meaningfully with advertisers so they can earn free Wi-Fi.

Marlon Parker, Founder of Reconstructed Living Labs, on behalf of the jury said; “the teams 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.”

In reaction to the Runner-Up award, Tim Genders; Chief Operating Officer of Project Isizwe, said; “Our next steps are to make free Wi-Fi scalable and self-sustaining through an advertising model. We want to make free Wi-Fi the new medium to get messages out to communities.”

Tim Genders; Chief Operating Officer of Project Isizwe is pictured presenting the 'Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi' to panel of judges at the Mozilla Equal Rating Innovation Challenge. (Photo Credit: Mozilla)
Tim Genders; Chief Operating Officer of Project Isizwe is pictured presenting the ‘Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi’ to panel of judges at the Mozilla Equal Rating Innovation Challenge. (Photo Credit: Mozilla)

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.

“At Mozilla, our commitment to Equal Rating through policy, innovation, research, and support of entrepreneurs in the space will continue beyond this Innovation Challenge, but it will take a global community to bring all of the internet to all people,” Katharina Borchert; the Chief Innovation Officer at Mozilla said in press statement.

South Africa’s other team; Zenzeleni Networks who also made it to the top 5 won USD$10,000 to develop their solution. Zenzeleni Networks is a bottom-up telecommunications co-operative model that allows the most disadvantaged rural areas of South Africa to self-provide affordable communications at a fraction of the cost offered by other operators.