Locally Relevant Content Gap and Equal Rating

Our work on Equal Rating in the last year has focused on policy, innovation, and research. Through our policy work, we engage with governments, civil society, and other stakeholders around the world to advance the concept of Equal Rating, and we’ve been running a global Equal Rating Innovation Challenge to catalyze new thinking in providing affordable access to the Internet and cultivating digital literacy. We’ve also been doing research around the world, including recently at Mozfest, where we investigated the critical question: what helps people to see the value in using and paying for the Internet?

In the global discourse around how to bring all of the Internet to all people, this question is often referred to as “the locally relevant content gap,” and is one of the reasons half the world remains unconnected – there just simply isn’t enough of this content available.

As part of our Equal Rating research work to dive deeper into this question, at MozFest16 in London (28 to 30 October), we held a session entitled: “Solving for discoverability: What tech tools can help surface locally relevant content?” facilitated by Ankit Gadgil, Jochai Ben-Avie, and Nisha Malhan.

Unpacking the problem

At our session in London, we posited that there are at least four lenses through which it’s useful to think about the locally relevant content gap:

  1. Lack of content creation: There just isn’t enough locally relevant content being created;
  2. Lack of monetization opportunities: There is locally relevant content being created today, but due to challenges of monetizing this content, content production isn’t sustainable;
  3. Lack of localization: While locally relevant content exists, it is not sufficiently local, translated, or localized;
  4. Lack of discoverability mechanisms: The major internet interfaces, namely browsers and app stores, typically highlight the products of big, Western companies or a user’s most frequently visited websites, and are not optimized to surface locally relevant content.

Notably, these four problems lend themselves to very different solutions and interventions. In order to keep our session at Mozfest focused, we honed in on this fourth lens: the lack of discoverability mechanisms. To make this more concrete, the group discussed possible product ideas that could help to more effectively surface locally relevant content. Two ideas stood out: 1) making better use of and more prominently displaying maps in the browser (which increasingly have significant amounts of local information), and 2) instead of showing users their most frequently visiting websites or the most frequently downloaded apps globally, allowing users to switch to viewing the most frequently visited websites or the most frequently downloaded apps in their local area.

Research -> Innovation

With more than half the world still offline, it’s clear that we need to both enhance our understanding of the barriers to accessing the internet as well as to develop new thinking and tools to bring the internet to all. That’s one of the reasons we launched the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, which offers $250,000 USD and expert mentorship to spur innovation in providing affordable access and cultivating digital literacy. More information about the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge can be found at: https://equalrating.com.

It’s clear from our and others’ research that solving for the locally relevant content problem is both critical to helping to bring the Internet to all and an area ripe for further innovation.

Webinar 3: Understanding the Current Landscape

In our third webinar, Valerie Casey, who is leading the Innovation Challenge for Mozilla, and Jochai Ben-Avie, Senior Global Policy Manager at Mozilla, discuss the current landscape of Equal Rating. The conversation is structured around the ten most frequently asked questions from entrepreneurs, policymakers, and researchers at our Innovation Challenge event. Topics included:

  • Recognizing the difference between Equal Rating and net neutrality
  • Understanding the profile of people online, and the barriers for those still unconnected
  • Mapping the ecosystem of players, and understanding telco and corporate roles better
  • Exploring the Innovation Challenge priority around localization and scalability

You can review the full webinar here.

There’s still time to submit your solution — the deadline is January 6th! Check out the whole schedule of key dates for the Innovation Challenge on the site.
If you have any questions on Equal Rating or submissions please do not hesitate to contact us at equalrating@mozilla.com

Top tips for creating a successful submission

We’ve had the great opportunity to host lively and interesting discussions with many entrepreneurs about their concepts throughout the Innovation Challenge. As we enter into the second half of the open submission period, we wanted to share the top five tips for creating strong submissions:

1) Read the Criteria, but study the Judges’ Scoring Rubric

The criteria provides an important list of what the judges will be looking for in each submission. However, the Judges’ Scoring Rubric lets you know the exact potential percentage points awarded in each category. Make sure that your submission addresses these categories. For instance, describe how your submission will deliver on creating a compelling experience for its target users, explain how it is differentiated from solutions currently in the market, and share how your team is uniquely qualified to build and launch this project.

2) Scalability is the key metric for this Innovation Challenge

Could your solution help people in other communities, regions, and countries? We see many innovative solutions that perfectly satisfy the needs of a small community, but our hope is to bring these great solutions to a broader population too. Even if you have not made a formal plan to scale your solution, make sure to share your initial ideas for how you might do so on the submission form. We know all of the best ideas start small and grow — don’t forget to describe both points!

3) Short and simple!

Each question on the submission form has a maximum number of words you can use to answer the question. This is a boundary, not a goal. Be clear, succinct, and free of jargon, and if you only need half of the words to answer the question, there is no need to write more!

4) Help the judges see what you see

As the saying goes, an image is worth a thousand words. If you can create a diagram, flow chart, or sketch that helps make your concept more understandable, please add it to your submission. You can also attach an image of a person or people benefiting from your solution. Attaching an image is optional, so if you do not have an image you will not have points deducted — it can only help!

5) Every journey starts with a single step

Many entrepreneurs we’ve met have shared incredible visions of the world when their solution is in every person’s hands. We love that ambition and forward thinking, but the judges will also want to know about how you plan to get to make your vision a reality. The strongest submissions are ones that feel tangible and specific, where it’s clear exactly how the early idea turns into a real product or service that an actual person will engage with. Specifically, describe exactly what your solution is (e.g. an app, a service, a contract, a research project), where you will launch your idea (e.g. city, community, tribe), and who you hope will adopt it first (e.g. girls, students, elderly, businesses, governments). We want you to be successful so please make sure to be as clear and precise as possible in your submission. Vision combined with practical details will make your solution very compelling!

As always, if you have any questions, please email us at equalrating@mozilla.com. And make sure you get your submission in by the 6 January deadline!


Webinar 2: What is Equal Rating

In this brief webinar, Mozilla’s Senior Global Policy Manager Jochai Ben-Avie discussed the concept of “Equal Rating” and how it ties to Mozilla’s mission and goals. You can view the recording of the webinar here, and a summary follows:


Part 1: Reviewing the Innovation Challenge mission and key dates

    • Mozilla’s goal for the Innovation Challenge is to stimulate new conversations and creative solutions for providing affordable access to the open Internet.
    • Submissions must be received by 6 January. We are also happy to provide feedback on your draft submission if you share your ideas before the end of December.

Part 2: Definition of the term Equal Rating

    • Equal Rating builds on Mozilla’s commitment to net neutrality and digital inclusion.
    • Users should be able to choose their own content based on the quality of the content and their interest in that content, not just what a provider selects.
    • Equal Rating does not support “pay-for-play” arrangements or “gatekeepers” monitoring access.

Part 3: Mozilla’s three-fold strategy to support Equal Rating

    • Open Innovation: Catalyzing new thinking and business models and bringing together a community of people who are activated on this topic.
    • Policy: Work with governments and regulators to seed the right conditions and environment for providing access to the full diversity of the open Internet.
    • Research: Ongoing partnerships with research experts to get data about how we can work to break barriers to accessing and using the open Internet to its fullest potential benefit.

If you have any questions on this topic or other related to the Innovation Challenge, please don’t hesitate to contact us at equalrating@mozilla.com.

Innovators and Researchers Collaborate in Bangalore

One of the key premises of our work on Equal Rating is to come to a better understanding of the barriers to access that users face today. What are the kind of experiences and content users want? How and why do people use the Internet to have the most positive and productive impact on their lives? How can we unleash and educate about the potential the Internet offers to those who have had no experience with it before? According to Professor Rahul Dé, who is the Hewlett-Packard Chair Professor in ICT for Sustainable Economic Development at IIM Bangalore, these are the critical questions that need to be addressed when talking about connecting people to the Internet.

Professor Dé kindly followed the invitation to join an Equal Rating Innovation workshop our team held in Bangalore, adding valuable insights from his extensive research around development and economic impact of open source software as well as the evaluation of e-Government systems.


His keynote was complemented by participants of Mozilla’s DinoTank India “Connecting Rural Women” workshop who presented first results and on the ground perspectives around Internet usage and Equal Rating. The DinoTank team comprised of around 25 staff, volunteers, and allies in the Bangalore community. They applied Design Thinking methodologies to the problem statement proposed by Mozilla India community members Vsnisha Srivastav and Shagufta Methwani at the 2016 Mozilla All Hands in London:

“India is the second largest Internet user base, but also has one of the greatest online gender disparities. Girls were told by their parents that the Internet is not safe for women, and that’s why women should not use the internet. The women in India are at risk of getting left behind as the world goes online. In villages, generally parents do not allow girls to continue their education after 8th grade. While even urban women are coming online, rural women are struggling. There are many women out there who do not know what the Internet is, and have never seen a laptop or tablet before. If they were able to get online, there would be a massive transformation in the live of these women. With the knowledge they would obtain, they would be able to earn an income and stand on their own feet.”


The full result report will be published soon and we’re looking forward to seeing and supporting more research in this field. Because it is qualitative local experience that is needed to stimulate innovative and holistic solutions in providing affordable access and cultivating digital literacy. This is what we hope to catalyze with our Equal Rating Innovation Challenge.

Mozilla and Start Up Chile Explore the Benefits of Equal Rating

Our latest partner in Mozilla’s journey to galvanize the innovation community around the topic of affordable access to the open Internet is Startup Chile, the biggest accelerator in Latin America. We hosted an event on November 30th in the Start-Up Chile Coworking Space and met many incredible thinkers and doers. Mozilla’s Senior Global Policy Manager Jochai Ben-Avie interviewed Rocio Fonseca. Rocio is the Executive Director of Startup Chile and one of the five judges of the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge. Jochai and Rocio had a lively banter about entrepreneurship, the complexities of changing mental models to solve social challenges, and

the importance of building a diverse community that drives toward to common goal. We are thrilled to have Rocio’s perspective and experience on the judging panel for the Innovation Challenge!
We are looking forward to seeing the submissions that come out of each community around the globe. You can find more about Rocio’s background on the judges page and submit your proposal HERE. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have at equalrating@mozilla.com.

Equal Rating Innovation Challenge in One Minute!

Announcing panel of judges for Mozilla’s Equal Rating Innovation Challenge


Mozilla is delighted to announce the esteemed judges for the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge:

  • Rocio Fonseca (Chile), Executive Director of Start-Up Chile
  • Omobola Johnson (Nigeria), Honorary Chair of the Alliance for Affordable Internet and Partner of TLcom Capital LLP
  • Nikhil Pahwa (India), Founder at MediaNama and Co-founder of savetheinternet.in
  • Marlon Parker (South Africa), Founder of Reconstructed Living Labs

These four leaders will join Mitchell Baker (USA), Executive Chairwoman of Mozilla, on the judging panel for the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge. The judges will be bringing their wealth of industry experience and long-standing expertise from various positions in policy, entrepreneurship, and consulting in the private and public sector to assess the challenge submissions.

“Mozilla seeks to find novel solutions to connect all people to the open Internet so they can realize the full potential of this globally shared resource”, said Katharina Borchert, Chief Innovation Officer at Mozilla and one of the initiators of the Challenge. “We’re both thrilled and proud to have gathered such a great roster of judges for the Innovation Challenge – it’s a testament to the global scope of the initiative. Each one of these leaders has already contributed in many ways to tackle the broader challenge of connecting the unconnected and it is an honour to have these global heavyweights in our panel.”

The Equal Rating Innovation Challenge will support promising solutions through expert mentorship and funding of US$250,000 in prize monies split into three categories: Best Overall (with a key focus on scalability), Best Overall Runner-up, and Most Novel Solution (based on experimentation with a potential high reward).

The judges will score submissions according to the degree by which they meet the following attributes:

  • 25pts: Scalability
  • 20pts: Focus on user experience
  • 15pts: Differentiation
  • 10pts: Ability to be quickly deployed into the market (within 9-12 months)
  • 10pts: Potential of the team
  • 10pts: Community voting results

The deadline for submission is 6 January 2017. On 17 January, the judges will announce five semifinalists. Those semifinalists will be provided advice and mentorship from Mozilla experts in topics such as policy, business, engineering, and design to hone their solution. The semifinalists will take part in a Demo Day on 9 March 2017 in New York City to pitch their solutions to the judges. The public will then be invited to vote for their favorite solution online during a community voting period from 10–16 March, and the challenge winners will be announced on 29 March 2017.

View the judges here.

Expert Panel Discussion in New Delhi Explores Local Barriers and Challenges to Open Internet Access


On November 18 in New Delhi, Mozilla partnered with the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC.in.) to host a conversation about connecting millions more people in India to the free and open Internet.The panel gathered experts in policy, law, and venture capital, and included Jochai Ben-Avie, Senior Global Policy Manager at Mozilla, Mishi Choudhary, Executive Director at SFLC.in, Mahesh Murthy, Founder of Pinstorm, co-Founder at Seedfund, as well as Smriti Parsheera, Consultant at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. The group had a lively conversation and offered differentiated perspectives around these central questions:

  • What have been core developments after India’s ban on differential pricing earlier this year?
  • What are the biggest challenges to bringing all of India online and what areas are ripe for innovation?
  • What values are important to guide innovation in connecting the unconnected?
  • In which ways can digital literacy initiatives complement efforts focusing on infrastructure and affordability barriers in India?
  • How can more initiatives like the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge foster innovative thinking, broaden the set of possible solutions and enable the transition from ideas to scalable market solutions?

“While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recognized that some business models are too harmful to competition and users to be allowed in the market, the very real challenge of bringing all of the Internet to all people remains. To advance this goal, Mozilla’s ‘Equal Rating Innovation Challenge’ is designed to catalyze new thinking and innovation in providing affordable access and cultivating digital literacy,” Mozilla’s Jochai Ben-Avie said.

“The debate around Internet openness and access has been playing out in India like nowhere else, and Equal Rating models can help to bring the Internet to all in line with TRAI’s regulation. Building on Mozilla’s strong commitment to net neutrality, the central tenet of Equal Rating models is that they treat all content equally, and that users are able to choose the content they want to see based on the quality of that content and not the commercial relationships of a given provider,” he added.


Mahesh Murthy called Mozilla’s challenge a real “game changer” which can help bring the next 300 million Indians online. He added: “I was part of the team that helped fight Free Basics – because it simply gave too much power to one company. But I was always cognizant of the need for the less privileged to get free Internet access. We want companies to come up with solutions that offer free net access, without the restrictions – and with the freedom for a user to visit any site she chooses. I’m glad to see that Equal Rating offers exactly that: plan to offer a certain amount of free and unfettered Internet access to all users, without restrictions or bias.”

Mishi Choudhary commended our initiative during the discussion, “Connecting the unconnected while propagating the values of an open Internet is what we all must work for. Mozilla’s challenge is the correct way to solve the problem of access. I hope for more such initiatives to be rolled out and we can address the challenge innovatively to educate every being on earth through an open Internet.”

“India has shown the world that it can protect the openness of Internet in the TRAI ruling earlier this year,” Smriti Parsheera said. “The global community has taken note of India as a country where even before any reference framework on net neutrality existed, the regulator took a view on ‘zero rating practices’ and ‘discriminatory pricing practices’, leading to a rollback of Free Basics,” she added.

We’re very pleased and excited about the positive reactions and fruitful conversations we had in New Delhi. And we keep going! On November 30, we will host an event in Santiago de Chile together with Start-Up Chile, a program created by the Chilean Government that seeks to attract early-stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to bootstrap their startups using Chile as a platform to go global. If you want to register, please RSVP.

We’re looking forward to meeting you there!

Webinar: Innovation Challenge Mechanics

Today we hosted an interactive webinar diving into the “mechanics” of the innovation challenge — basically, how the innovation challenge structure works. We covered four topics, and then opened the floor to questions. You can watch the video here, or read the summary of key points!

See the webinar here.

Topic 1: Our Mission – Mozilla’s mission to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. Our work in Equal Rating includes ongoing in-field research, policy engagement, and now this public challenge to spur innovation. We hope this innovation challenge will invite people to find new ways to provide affordable access to the unconnected as well as stimulate new conversations, connections, and experiments.

Topic 2: EqualRating.com – We highlighted key resources from the EqualRating.com website – specifically the Overview and Key Facts pages, which provide salient reports and articles describing the current barriers to Internet adoption. These resources also offer stimulating statistics to help drive new ways to think about this topic.

Topic 3: Proposals – The types of solutions we expect to spur through this challenge may include anything from consumer products and mobile services, to new business models and infrastructure proposals. The innovation challenge award money may support a team in building their entire solution, or it might help with initial research as they pursue future grants or proposals. We intentionally have left the call for proposals broad so that we can inspire a broad and creative` response!

Topic 4: Submission Form – We have a one-page submission form that is designed to be straight-forward and fairly short. After you enter information about the team, there are about 10 questions about the proposal that align with the Criteria listed on the website. You can also view the scoring matrix that the Judges will use to make their determination.

Good luck to all, and mark your calendar to get your submission in by January 6!

If you have any questions, please email us at equalrating@mozilla.com. We’re here to help!