Mozilla Wants To ‘Humanise’ Net Neutrality Issues With £200,000 Innovation Prize

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Mozilla is seeking ideas to help promote web access and ensure the principles of net neutrality are enshrined by making them a human issue

Mozilla hopes a new prize fund will help find fresh ways to enshrine the principles of net neutrality and ensure there are no barriers to the access of the open web.

The ‘Equal Rating Innovation Challenge’ will offer up to $250,000 to ideas that can help get more people online and combat perceived impediments. These include a lack of adequate connectivity, cost and cultural differences.

“At Mozilla, we believe the Internet is most powerful when anyone – regardless of gender, income, or geography – can participate equally,” said Mozilla. “However the digital divide is a clear and persistent reality.

Mozilla net neutrality

firefox“Some, who live in poor or rural areas, lack the infrastructure. Fast wired and wireless connectivity only reaches 30 percent 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 percent access the Internet versus 59 percent of men, according to surveys by the World Wide Web Foundation.”

In what could be perceived as a thinly veiled dig at Facebook’s Free Basics service, which sees local operators ‘zero rate’ certain applications so they don’t incur any data cost for the user, Mozilla said access alone was not the only roadblock to an open Internet.

Free Basics was separated from Facebook’s wider efforts to improve connectivity around the world because of ongoing controversy.

Mozilla said it had participated in proposals for pro-net neutrality legislation in the US, Europe and India but wanted to do more to enshrine the principle with this competition.

“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,” she added.

Prizes will be awarded for best overall project, best runner-up and most novel idea. The last of these is meant to be an experimental project that has a high reward.

Submissions are open from 4 November to 6 January and all will be assessed by a panel of external experts. A group of semi-finalists will then receive mentoring ahead of a demo day and the winners will be chosen via a community vote at the end of March.

Mozilla has launched a number of initiatives to improve access to the Internet, however Firefox OS, its vision of a web-based mobile operating system for smartphones, is no longer under development.

“Connecting the unconnected is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” said Mozilla. “No one organisation or effort can tackle it alone.”

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