People 'n' Issues

SA semi-finalists in equal innovation challenge

February 23rd, 2017
Two South African entries have made it to the last 5 of a global innovation challenge aimed at expanding affordable Internet access.
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Two South African entrants, as well as an ex-South African, have made it to the semi-finals of the  Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, launched by Mozilla in October 2016.

Mozilla called on entrepreneurs, designers, researchers, and innovators all over the world to propose novel and scalable solutions to provide affordable access to the full diversity of the open Internet.

“Reflecting the truly global character of this challenge, we received over 100 submission from 27 countries around the world,” the organisation said this week. “Five teams made it to the semi-final and they have been receiving expert mentorship to hone their projects.”

The teams included two from South Africa, as well as a former South African-based Internet activist, indicating a massive passion among South Africans to bring Internet access to all.

The South African finalists are Tim Genders of Afri-Fi Free Public WiFi and Carlos Rey-Moreno of Zenzeleni “Do it for yourselves” Networks. They are joined by Steve Song, now living in Canada, but well-known among South Africans for his work here, representing Freemium Mobile Internet.

The semi-finalists will pitch their ideas at an event to be live-streamed on equalrating.com on 9 March from 9am to 6.30pm. Mozilla will convene leaders in industry, government, NGOs, and advocacy at the Equal Rating Conference to discuss and debate the current state of global affordable Internet access.

Speakers include

  • Mitchell Baker Executive – Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
  • Katharina Borchert – Chief Innovation Officer, Mozilla Corporation
  • Rocio Fonseca – Executive Director, Start-Up Chile
  • Gary Fowlie – Head, ITU Liaison Office to the United Nations
  • Jeremy Balkin – Head of Innovation, HSBC
  • Omobola Johnson – Former Minister of Communication Technology, Nigeria
  • Nikhil Pahwa – Co-founder, savetheinternet.in
  • Marlon Parker – Founder, Reconstructed Living Labs

Following morning sessions of keynotes and lighting talks, a key part of the program will be the “Demo Day”: Mozilla has invited the semifinalist teams from South Africa, Brazil, Canada and India to come to New York and live-pitch their advanced solutions to an expert panel of judges.

Demo Day: Semifinalist pitches

  • Tim Genders (South Africa) presents Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi
  • Carlos Rey-Moreno (South Africa) presents Zenzeleni “Do it for yourselves” Networks (ZN)
  • Steve Song (Canada) presents Freemium Mobile Internet (FMI)
  • Bruno Vianna (Brazil) presents Free Networks P2P Cooperative
  • Dr Sarbani Banerjee Belur (India) presents Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband

This event will not only be an opportunity to gather different perspectives from research, policy, advocacy and venture capital on universal Internet access. It will also be a chance to get to know the semifinalist teams, hear their story, learn from their local expertise and get caught by their motivation to help and improve the conditions of their communities.

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