Indian Project for Affordable Rural Broadband Among Semi-Finalists in Mozilla’s ‘Equal Rating Innovation Challenge’

Global non-profit organisation Mozilla releases the list of five semi-finalists for its ‘Equal Rating Innovation Challenge’ 2017. Mumbai-based Gram Marg Solution concept for affordable broadband access in the race for global honour.

New Delhi, January 20, 2017:

image003The 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.”

Following eight weeks of mentorship for the semi-finalists, on March 9, Mozilla will host a day-long event in New York City on the topic of affordable access and innovation. Speakers and researchers from around the world will provide their valuable insights on the global debate, various initiatives, and the latest approaches to affordable access.

The main feature of this event will be presentations by semi-finalists, with a thorough Q&A from the Challenge’s judges. This will be followed by a week of open public voting on to help determine the winners of the Challenge. The winners will then be announced at RightsCon on March 29 in Brussels, Belgium.

Additionally, the evaluation process for submission has thrown up a set of four interesting observations.

One, cooperatives were a popular mechanism to grow buy-in and share responsibility and benefit across communities. This is in contrast to a more typical and transactional producer-consumer relationship. Digital literacy was naturally integrated into solutions, but was rarely the lead idea. Instead it was the de facto addition. This signals that digital literacy in and of itself is not perceived as a full solution or service, but rather an essential part of enabling access to the Internet.

Two, several teams took into account the unbanked and undocumented in their solutions. There seemed to be a feeling that solutions for the people would come from the people, not governments or corporations.

Three, there was a strong trend for service solutions to disintermediate traditional commercial relationships and directly connect buyers and sellers.

Four, in media-centric solutions, the voice of the people was as important as authoritative sources. User generated content in the areas of local news was popular, as was enabling a distribution of voices to be heard.

Mozilla will disclose further information about the semi-finalist teams and projects in the coming weeks on

Please find attached the press release in pdf format, infographics of the participation (pdf and png formats) and a picture of Katharina Borchert, Chief Innovation Officer at Mozilla.

Mozilla is a pioneer and advocate for the Open Web for more than 15 years. We create and promote open standards that enable innovation and advance the Web as a platform for all. Today, hundreds of millions of people worldwide use Mozilla Firefox to experience the Web on computers, tablets and mobile devices. For more information, visit

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