Mozilla, GSM Association Work Toward Filling Digital Gaps

A new collaboration between the browser maker and the mobile-operator trade group hopes to build digital literacy worldwide—relying on creating local content, not just technology.

With its mobile efforts, the Mozilla Foundation has focused less on competing with the iPhones and Galaxy devices of the world and more on smaller markets that have largely remained underserved by the mobile revolution. Mozilla’s Firefox OS phones, which are low-cost devices focused on emerging markets, are a prime example of this approach.

And with its latest collaboration, the foundation wants to ensure that the internet, when it reaches the 4 billion people currently without online access, will have content that’s relevant to these new web surfers’ needs. Through a new partnership with the GSM Association (GSMA), Mozilla hopes to encourage new types of local content.

“At present, there is a shortage of digital content that has a sufficient understanding of specific cultural contexts, local conditions and the needs of local populations,” the groups say in a white paper [PDF] that was released earlier this month. “An internet that is available to more people is a welcome development, but increased access alone will not solve these issues.”

The organizations—one representing one of the largest names in internet software, the other representing the mobile industry as a whole—plan to make available inexpensive smartphones, lead digital literacy training efforts, and work on building new kinds of content specifically for underserved parts of the world.

“Clear barriers exist: we see some common obstacles that have the potential to dampen the impact of this transformation, and ways to overcome them,” the groups state in the white paper. “We share a common hypothesis: that locally relevant content will truly unlock the benefits of the Web for the unconnected billions.”

Thus far, pilots have taken place in Bangladesh, Brazil, Kenya, and India, with more efforts underway over the next six to 12 months. The groups are looking to establish a coalition composed of representatives from technology, manufacturing, education, international development, and NGOs. Interested parties can learn more on Mozilla’s blog.

The collaboration comes slightly more than a year after Facebook helped launch a similar endeavor,

The Alcatel One Touch Fire, one of the low-cost Firefox OS devices for sale. (Alcatel press photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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