Three billion of us now share the Internet. But our online experiences differ greatly, depending on geography, gender and income.
For a software engineer in San Francisco, the Internet can be open and secure. But for a low-income, first-time smartphone user in Nairobi, the Internet is most often a small collection of apps in an unfamiliar language, limited further by high data costs.
This undercuts the Internet’s potential as a global public resource — a resource everyone should be able to use to improve their lives and societies.
Twelve months ago, Mozilla set out to study this divide. We wanted to understand the barriers that low-income, first-time smartphone users in Kenya face when adapting to online life. And we wanted identify the skills and education methods necessary to overcome them.
To do this, Mozilla created the Digital Skills Observatory: a participatory research project exploring the complex relationship between devices, digital skills, social life, economic life and digital life. The work — funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — was developed and led by Mozilla alongside Digital Divide Data and A Bit of Data Inc.Today, we’re sharing our findings.
For one year, Mozilla researchers and local Mozilla community members worked with about 200 participants across seven Kenyan regions. All participants identified as low income and were coming online for the first time through smartphones. To hone our focus, we paid special attention to the impact of digital skills on digital financial services (DFS) adoption. Why? A strong grasp of digital financial services can open doors for people to access the formal financial environment and unlock economic opportunity.
In conducting the study, one group of participants was interviewed regularly and shared smartphone browsing and app usage data. A second group did the same, but also received digital skills training on topics like app stores and cybersecurity.
Our findings were significant. Among them:
- Without proper digital skills training, smartphone adoption can worsen — not improve — existing financial and social problems.
- Without media literacy and knowledge of online scams, users fall prey to fraudulent apps and news. The impact of these scams can be devastating on people who are already financially precarious
- Users employ risky methods to circumvent the high price of data, like sharing apps via Bluetooth. As a result, out-of-date apps with security vulnerabilities proliferate
- A set of 53 teachable skills can reduce barriers and unlock opportunity.
- These skills — identified by both participants and researchers — range from managing data usage and recognizing scams to resetting passwords, managing browser settings and understanding business models behind app stores
- Our treatment group learned these skills, and the end-of-study evaluation showed increased agency and understanding of what is possible online
- Without these fundamental skills, users are blocked in their discoveries and adoption of digital products
- Gender and internet usage are deeply entwined.
- Men often have an effect on the way women use apps and services — for example, telling them to stop, or controlling their usage
- Women were almost three times as likely to be influenced by their partner when purchasing a smartphone, usually in the form of financial support
- Language and Internet usage are deeply entwined.
- The web is largely in English — a challenge for participants who primarily speak Swahili or Sheng (a Swahili-English hybrid)
- Colloquial language (like Sheng) increases comfort with technology and accommodates learning
- Like most of us, first-time users found an Internet that is highly centralized.
- Participants encountered an Internet dominated by just a few entities. Companies like Google, Facebook and Safaricom control access to apps, communication channels and more. This leads to little understanding of what is possible online and little agency to leverage the web
- Digital skills are best imparted through in-person group workshops or social media channels.
- Community-based learning was the most impactful — workshops provide wider exposure to what’s possible online and build confidence
- Mobile apps geared toward teaching digital skills are less effective. Many phones cannot support them, and they are unlikely to “stick”
- Social networks can be highly effective for teaching digital skills. Our chatbot experiment on WhatsApp showed positive results
- Local talent is important when teaching digital skills.
- Without a community of local practitioners and teachers, teaching digital skills becomes far more difficult
- Research and teaching capacity can be grown and developed within a community
- Digital skills are critical, but not a panacea.
- Web literacy is one part of a larger equation. To become empowered digital citizens, individuals also must have access (like hardware and affordable data) and need (a perceived use and value for technology).
Mozilla’s commitment to digital literacy doesn’t end with this research. We’re holding roundtables and events in Kenya — and beyond — to share findings with allies like NGOs and technologists. We’re asking others to contribute to the conversation.
We’re also rolling our learnings into our ongoing Internet Health work, and building on the concept that access alone isn’t enough — we need solutions that account for the nuances of social and economic life, too.
Read the full report here.
The post How Do We Connect First-Time Internet Users to a Healthy Web? appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.
Imagine an online application that lets city planners walk through three-dimensional virtual versions of proposed projects, or a math program that helps students understand complex concepts by visualizing them in three dimensions. Both CityViewR & MathworldVR are amazing applications experiences that bring to life the possibilities of virtual reality (VR).
Both are concept virtual reality applications for the web that were generated for the Virtuleap WebVR Hackathon. Amazingly, nine out of ten of the winning projects used AFrame, an open source project sponsored by Mozilla, which makes it much easier to create VR experiences.. CityView really illustrates the capabilities of WebVR to have real life benefits that impact the quality of people’s daily lives beyond the browser.
Over three months, long contest teams from a dozen countries submitted 34 VR concepts. Seventeen judges and audience panels voted on the entries. Below is a list of the top 10 projects. I wanted to congratulate @ThePascalRascal and @Geczy for their work that won the €30,000 prize and spots to VR accelerator programs in Amsterdam, respectively.
Here’s the really excellent part. With luck and solid code, virtual reality should start appearing in standard general availability web browsers in 2017. That’s a big deal. To date, VR has been accessible primarily on proprietary platforms. To put that in real world terms, the world of VR has been like a maze with many doors opening into rooms. Each room held something cool. But there was no way to walk easily and search through the rooms, browse the rooms, or link one room to another. This ability to link, browse, collaborate and share is what makes the web powerful and it’s what will help WebVR take off.
To get an idea of how we envision this might work, consider the APainter app built by Mozilla’s team. It is designed to let artists create virtual art installations online. Each APainter work has a unique URL and other artists can come in and add to or build on top of the creation of the first artist, because the system is open source. At the same time, anyone with a browser can walk through an APainter work. And artists using APainter can link to other works within their virtual works, be it a button on a wall, a traditional text block, or any other format.
It’s gratifying to see something we have worked so hard on enjoy such strong community adoption. And we’re also super grateful to Amir and the folks that put in the time and effort to organize and staff the Virtualeap Global Hackathon. If you are interested in learning more about AFrame, you can do so here.
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In January, we published our first Internet Health Report on the current state and future of the Internet. In the report, we broke down the concept of Internet health into five issues. Today, we are publishing issue briefs about each of them: online privacy and security, decentralization, openness, web literacy and digital inclusion. These issues are the building blocks to a healthy and vibrant Internet. We hope they will be a guide and resource to you.
We live in a complex, fast moving, political environment. As policies and laws around the world change, we all need to help protect our shared global resource, the Internet. Internet health shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but rather, a cause we can all get behind. And our choices and actions will affect the future health of the Internet, for better or for worse.
We work on many other policies and projects to advance our mission, but we believe that these issue briefs help explain our views and actions in the context of Internet health:1. Online Privacy & Security:
Security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional.
In our brief, we highlight the following subtopics:
- Meaningful user control – People care about privacy. But effective understanding and control are often difficult, or even impossible, in practice.
- Data collection and use – The tech industry, too often, reflects a culture of ‘collect and hoard all the data’. To preserve trust online, we need to see a change.
- Government surveillance – Public distrust of government is high because of broad surveillance practices. We need more transparency, accountability and oversight.
- Cybersecurity – Cybersecurity is user security. It’s about our Internet, our data, and our lives online. Making it a reality requires a shared sense of responsibility.
Protecting your privacy and security doesn’t mean you have something to hide. It means you have the ability to choose who knows where you go and what you do.
A healthy Internet is open, so that together, we can innovate.
To make that a reality, we focus on these three areas:
- Open source – Being open can be hard. It exposes every wrinkle and detail to public scrutiny. But it also offers tremendous advantages.
- Copyright – Offline copyright law built for an analog world doesn’t fit the current digital and mobile reality.
- Patents – In technology, overbroad and vague patents create fear, uncertainty and doubt for innovators.
Copyright and patent laws should better foster collaboration and economic opportunity. Open source, open standards, and pro-innovation policies must continue to be at the heart of the Internet.
There shouldn’t be online monopolies or oligopolies; a decentralized Internet is a healthy Internet.
To accomplish that goal, we are focusing on the following policy areas.
- Net neutrality – Network operators must not be allowed to block or skew connectivity or the choices of Internet users.
- Interoperability – If short-term economic gains limit long-term industry innovation, then the entire technology industry and economy will suffer the consequences.
- Competition and choice – We need the Internet to be an engine for competition and user choice, not an enabler of gatekeepers.
- Local contribution – Local relevance is about more than just language; it’s also tailored to the cultural context and the local community.
When there are just a few organizations and governments who control the majority of online content, the vital flow of ideas and knowledge is blocked. We will continue to look for public policy levers to advance our vision of a decentralized Internet.
4. Digital Inclusion:
People, regardless of race, income, nationality, or gender, should have unfettered access to the Internet.
To help promote an open and inclusive Internet, we are focusing on these issues:
- Advancing universal access to the whole Internet – Everyone should have access to the full diversity of the open Internet.
- Advancing diversity online – Access to and use of the Internet are far from evenly distributed. This represents a connectivity problem and a diversity problem.
- Advancing respect online – We must focus on changing and building systems that rely on both technology and humans, to increase and protect diverse voices on the Internet.
Numerous and diverse obstacles stand in the way of digital inclusion, and they won’t be overcome by default. Our aim is to collaborate with, create space for, and elevate everyone’s contributions.
5. Web Literacy:
Everyone should have the skills to read, write and participate in the digital world.
To help people around the globe participate in the digital world, we are focusing on these areas:
- Moving beyond coding – Universal web literacy doesn’t mean everyone needs to learn to code; other kinds of technical awareness and empowerment can be very meaningful.
- Integrating web literacy into education – Incorporating web literacy into education requires examining the opportunities and challenges faced by both educators and youth.
- Cultivating digital citizenship – Everyday Internet users should be able to shape their own Internet experience, through the choices that they make online and through the policies and organizations they choose to support.
Web literacy should be foundational in education, like reading and math. Empowering people to shape the web enables people to shape society itself. We want people to go beyond consuming and contribute to the future of the Internet.
Promoting, protecting, and preserving a healthy Internet is challenging, and takes a broad movement working on many different fronts. We hope that you will read these and take action alongside us, because in doing so you will be protecting the integrity of the Internet. For our part, we commit to advancing our mission and continuing our fight for a vibrant and healthy Internet.
The post Five issues that will determine the future of Internet Health appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.
By Chris Lawrence, VP, Leadership Network
At Mozilla, we believe in a networked approach — leveraging the power of diverse people, pooled expertise and shared values.
This was the approach we took nearly 15 years ago when we first launched Firefox. Our open-source browser was — and is — built by a global network of engineers, designers and open web advocates.
This is also the approach Mozilla takes when working toward its greater mission: keeping the internet healthy. We can’t build a healthy internet — one that cherishes freedom, openness and inclusion — alone. To keep the internet a global public resource, we need a network of individuals and organizations and institutions.
One such partnership is Mozilla’s ongoing collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. Ignite. We’re currently offering a $2 million prize for projects that decentralize the web. And together in 2014, we launched the Gigabit Community Fund. We committed to supporting promising projects in gigabit-enabled U.S. cities — projects that use connectivity 250-times normal speeds to make learning more engaging, equitable and impactful.Today, we’re adding two new cities to the Gigabit Community Fund: Eugene, OR and Lafayette, LA.
Beginning in May 2017, we’re providing a total of $300,000 in grants to projects in both new cities. Applications for grants will open in early summer 2017; applicants can be individuals, nonprofits and for-profits.
We’ll support educators, technologists and community activists in Eugene and Lafayette who are building and beta-testing the emerging technologies that are shaping the web. We’ll fuel projects that leverage gigabit networks to make learning more inclusive and engaging through VR field trips, ultra-high definition classroom collaboration, and real-time cross-city robot battles. (These are all real examples from the existing Mozilla gigabit cities of Austin, Chattanooga and Kansas City.)
We’re also investing in the local communities on the ground in Eugene and Lafayette — and in the makers, technologists, and educators who are passionate about local innovation. Mozilla will bring its Mozilla Network approach to both cities, hosting local events and strengthening connections between individuals, schools, nonprofits, museums, and other organizations.
Video: Learn how the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund supports innovative local projects across the U.S.
Why Eugene and Lafayette? Mozilla Community Gigabit Fund cities are selected based on a range of criteria, including a widely deployed high-speed fiber network; a developing conversation about digital literacy, access, and innovation; a critical mass of community anchor organizations, including arts and educational organizations; an evolving entrepreneurial community; and opportunities to engage K-12 school systems.
We’re excited to fuel innovation in the communities of Eugene and Lafayette — and to continue our networked approach with NSF, U.S. Ignite and others, in service of a healthier internet.
The post A Public-Private Partnership for Gigabit Innovation and Internet Health appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.