Today, Mozilla is launching the prototype version of the Internet Health Report. With this open-source research project, we want to start a conversation with you, citizens of the Internet, about what is healthy, unhealthy, and what lies ahead for the Internet.
When I first fell in love with the Internet in the mid-1990s, it was very much a commons that belonged to everyone: a place where anyone online could publish or make anything. They could do so without asking permission from a publisher, a banker or a government. It was a revelation. And it made me — and countless millions of others — very happy.
Since then, the Internet has only grown as a platform for our collective creativity, invention and self expression. There will be five billion of us on the Internet by 2020. And vast swaths of it will remain as open and decentralized as they were in the early days. At least, that’s my hope.
Yet when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg shows up on the cover of The Economist depicted as a Roman emperor, I wonder: is the Internet being divided up into a few great empires monopolizing everyday activities like search, talking to friends or shopping? Can it remain truly open and decentralized?
Similarly, when I read about hackers turning millions of home webcams and video recorders into a botnet army, I wonder whether this precious public resource can remain safe, secure and dependable? Can it survive?
These questions are even more critical now that we move into an age where the Internet starts to wrap around us, quite literally.
Think about it: we are increasingly surrounded by connected devices meant to ‘help’ with every aspect of our lives — eating, walking, driving, growing food, finding a parking spot, having sex, building a widget, having a baby (or not), running a city. This so-called Internet of Things will include 20.8 billion devices by 2020, all collecting and collating data constantly.
The Internet of Things, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence: these innovations will no doubt bring good to our lives and society. However, they will also create a world where we no longer simply ‘use a computer,’ we live inside it.
This changes the stakes. The Internet is now our environment. How it works — and whether it’s healthy — has a direct impact on our happiness, our privacy, our pocketbooks, our economies and democracies.
This is why I wake up every day thinking about the health of the Internet. It’s also why I’m so focused on getting more people to think of it as an issue that affects all of us.
Environmentalists in the 1960s faced the same problem. Few people knew that the health of the planet was at risk. They built a global movement that helped the public understand nerdy topics like the ozone layer and renewable energy, eventually changing laws and sparking a swath of industries committed to green business. They made the environment a mainstream issue.
We need a similar movement for the health of the Internet. We need to help people understand what’s at risk and what they can do.
We have started work on the Internet Health Report at Mozilla for exactly this reason. It is an open source project to document and explain what’s happening to this valuable public resource. We put the report together with data from multiple sources and combined it with stories from the ground.
This initial version of the report unpacks the health of the web across five issues that range from familiar Mozilla topics like: decentralization, open innovation, and online privacy and security; to newer areas like digital inclusion and web literacy. We chose to focus on these issues because they all have an influence on the social, technical, political and economic shape of the internet. Deeply intertwined, these issues — and the choices we make around them — have a deep impact on the health of the Internet, for better or for worse.
We’re hoping that you will read what we’ve started, comment in the margins, hack it and share it, to make it better. If you’d like to write, contribute research or otherwise get involved in future versions of the report, reach out to Solana Larsen, our Internet Health Report Editor, with your ideas. Your feedback will help build the next version of this report.
The good news is we can impact the health of the Internet. It’s designed that way. We can build new parts and teach people to get the most out of what’s there. We can point out what’s wrong and make it better. If we do this kind of work together, I believe we can expand and fuel the movement to keep the Internet much healthier for the future.
About three months ago we launched this global Equal Rating Innovation Challenge to help catalyze new thinking and innovation to provide access to the open Internet to those still living without. Clearly the idea resonated. Thanks to the help of numerous digital inclusion initiatives, think tanks, impact hubs and various local communities that supported us, our challenge has spurred global engagement. We received 98 submissions from 27 countries around the world. This demonstrates that there are entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators in myriad fields poised to tackle this huge challenge with creative products and services.
Our judging panel evaluated the submissions against the 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.
Here are the five projects which received the highest scores from our judges. Each team will receive 8 weeks of mentorship from experts within our Mozilla community, covering topics such as policy, business, engineering, and design. The mentorship is broad to better assist the teams in building out their proposed concepts.
Congratulations go to:
Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband
- Team Leader: Prof. Abhay Karandikar
- Location: Mumbai, India
- Open source low-cost hardware prototype utilizing Television White Spectrum to provide affordable access to rural communities.
Freemium Mobile Internet (FMI)
- Team Leader: Steve Song
- Location: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
- A new business model for telecommunication companies to provide free 2G to enable all the benefits of the open web to all.
Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi
- Team Leader: Tim Human
- Location: Cape Town, South Africa
- Model to make Project Isizwe financially sustainable by connecting brands to an untapped, national audience, specifically low-income communities who otherwise cannot afford connectivity.
Free Networks P2P Cooperative
- Team Leader: Bruno Vianna
- Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Cooperative that enables communities to set-up networks to get access to the Internet and then supports itself through the cooperative fees, and while co-creating the knowledge and respecting the local cultures.
Zenzeleni “Do it for yourselves” Networks (ZN)
- Team Leader: Dr Carlos Rey-Moreno
- Location: Cape Town, South Africa
- Bottom-up telecommunications co-operatives that allows the most disadvantaged rural areas of South Africa to self-provide affordable communications at a fraction of the cost offered by other operators.
While we will disclose further information about all of these teams and their projects in the coming weeks, here are some themes that we’ve seen in the submission process and our observations on these themes:
- 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.
- Many 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.
- There was a strong trend for service solutions to disintermediate traditional commercial relationships and directly connect buyers and sellers.
- 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.
Following the mentorship period, on March 9, we will host a day-long event in New York City on the topic of affordable access and innovation. We will invite speakers and researchers from around the world to 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 our semifinalists, with a thorough Q&A from our judges. We will then have a week of open public voting on EqualRating.com to help determine the winners of the Challenge. The winners will then be announced at RightsCon on March 29 in Brussels.
At this point we want to thank all who have sent us their ideas, organised or hosted an event, or helped to spread the word. We also want to thank our esteemed panel of judges for their time, insight, and mobilizing their communities. 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.
Let’s keep this spirit burning – not only through the end of our Challenge, but beyond.
For most of us email is a big part of our online lives. Today we’re excited to share that we’ve made updates to the email experience in Firefox for iOS, making it possible to choose your favorite email app when sending emails from pages browsed with Firefox.
We identified some of the mail applications preferred by Firefox users around the world and included those email apps in this update. So whether it is Microsoft Outlook, Airmail, Mail.Ru, MyMail, or Spark, you can easily send an email by tapping an email link displayed in the browser. That will open up your selected email app with the desired email address automatically populated in the address field. In a similar fashion, users can also update their settings in these email apps to automatically open any embedded link in Firefox.
You can choose your favorite email program in Firefox by going into settings in the Firefox for iOS app and selecting from the email programs listed.
You can also use Firefox to automatically open links embedded in emails by going into the settings menu of your preferred email app and selecting Firefox.
It’s clever, quick and simple – and more flexible. Because we want you to browse the Internet freely, the way you want, on Firefox. Get the latest Firefox for iOS here.
To experience the newest feature and use the latest version of Firefox for iOS, download the update and let us know what you think.
We hope you enjoy the latest version.
This week, the U.S. Senate is assessing a slate of cabinet nominees for the incoming Trump administration. If confirmed, these nominees are some of the people who will shape public policy for the next several years on critical issues — including civil liberties and national security.
Members of the Senate asked a range of essential and direct questions. But cybersecurity questions were not a significant part of the discussion in the hearing for potential Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who will lead the Department of Justice, including law enforcement investigations that involve technology.
At the recent Sessions’ Senate hearings, cybersecurity was discussed chiefly in regard to government-sponsored cyberattacks. Discussion about robust cybersecurity for everyday Internet users — through practices like strong encryption — was largely absent.
Mozilla is disappointed that cybersecurity — and the stances from appointees who will need to work on it regularly — was not a priority at the Senate hearings. It would have been helpful if the Senate asked Sessions to clarify his position, and even better if they asked him to clarify that privacy and security are important for all Americans and a healthy Internet.
We need a government that openly discusses — and values — a more secure Internet for all users.
Protecting users’ privacy and security online is a crucial issue for all of us. Security protects elections, economies and our private online and offline lives. And many recent events (cyber attacks, hacks and threats by foreign governments) show that a secure Internet is currently under threat.
I recently wrote about how cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. Governments, technology companies and users need to work together to strengthen cybersecurity. Mozilla knows that even one weak link — be it technical or legislative — can break the chain of security and put Internet users at risk. The chain only remains strong if technology companies, governments and users work together to keep the Internet as secure as it can be.
You can help Mozilla stand up for a more secure Internet. We’re asking readers to pen a Letter to the Editor to their local newspaper in response to this week’s Senate hearings, and support personal security and privacy online. Get started here.