Project Isizwe initiative wins R1 million funding in Mozilla contest

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Free WiFi organisation, Project Isizwe, has won $75 000 (R1 million) in funding from a global Mozilla contest, for its Afri-Fri: Free Public WiFi intiative.

Mozilla hosted its first Equal Rating Innovation Challenge recently, calling for creative and scalable ideas to provide affordable access to the full diversity of the open internet. Prizes up for grabs totalled  $250 000 in funding and expert mentorship to bring these solutions to the market.

Afr-Fri was one of over 100 submissions from 27 countries made to the competition and battled it out with five other contestants in the final round.

The key goal of Afri-Fi is to create a sustainable business model by linking together free WiFi networks throughout South Africa and engaging users meaningfully with advertisers so they can “earn” free WiFi.

“The team has proven how their solution for a free internet is supporting thriving communities in South Africa,” said Marlon Parker, Founder of Reconstructed Living Labs, on behalf of the jury. “Their approach towards community building, partnerships, developing local community entrepreneurs and inclusivity, with a goal of connecting some of the most marginalised communities, are all key factors in why they deserve this recognition and are leading the free Internet movement in Southern Africa.”

“Our next steps are to make free Wi-Fi scalable and self-sustaining through an advertising model. We want to make free wi-fi the new medium to get messages out to communities,” Tim Genders, COO of Project Isizwe, said.

The overall Winner of the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge which scooped the $125 000 (R1.6 million) grand prize in funding is Mumbai-based Project Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband.

Gram Marg utilises unused white space on the TV spectrum to backhaul data from village WiFi clusters to provide broadband access (frugal 5G). The team of academics and field workers around Professor Abhay Karandikar, Dean (Faculty Affairs) and Institute Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, leverages what people already have in their homes, and creates rugged receivers and transmitters to connect villages in even the most difficult terrains. The solution has been rolled out in 25 villages on a pilot basis so far.