The Indian Gram Marg Solution project is one of the five semi-finalists of the Mozilla ‘Equal Rating Innovation Challenge’. The Mumbai-based team led by Prof. Abhay Karandikar, has successfully developed an open source low-cost prototype to provide affordable broadband access to the Internet in rural communities utilizing Television White Space Spectrum.
Other projects in the reckoning for the top honour include Freemium Mobile Internet (FMI) of Canada, Afri-Fi: Free Public Wi-Fi of South Africa, Free Networks P2P Cooperative of Brazil and Zenzeleni ‘Do it for yourselves’ Networks (ZN) of South Africa.
Mozilla, the non-profit organisation behind the open source browser Firefox, launched the ‘Equal Rating Innovation Challenge’ in October 2016 as part of its endeavour to help catalyze new thinking and innovation for providing open Internet access to communities living without it. It called out to entrepreneurs, designers, researchers and innovators from all over the world to propose creative and scalable ideas that can cultivate digital literacy and provide affordable access to the Internet’s full diversity. Mozilla offered an award of US$250,000 in funding and expert mentorship to bring these solutions to the market.
The challenge received a total of 98 submissions from 27 countries. The final shortlist was prepared after benchmarking submissions against criteria of compliance with Equal Rating, affordability and accessibility, empathy, technical feasibility, as well as scalability, user experience, differentiation, potential for quick deployment, and team potential.
Katharina Borchert, Chief Innovation Officer at Mozilla, said in a blog post: “While we did have almost a hundred teams submit solutions, we also had thousands of people meeting and engaging in this content through our events, webinars, and website. With this in mind, Mozilla aims to further engage with more teams who sent us their concepts, connect them to our network, and continue to grow the community of people working on this important topic.”
Nikhil Pahwa, Founder and Editor of MediaNama and member of the Challenge’s esteemed panel of judges, added: “To ensure that governments are not pressurized into allowing projects which violate net neutrality, we need initiatives that help bring down the cost of access to the open Internet. This means reduced cost of hardware, community Internet access models, and innovations that help use unlicensed spectrum. It’s heartening to see such a wide variety of submissions from across the globe for this challenge. I am confident that, with time, initiatives like the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge will lead to many more diverse ideas, which will shape the landscape for affordable internet access in the future.”