As the World Wide Web celebrates its 25th year, MozFest attendees came together to debate, build and hack issues of policy, advocacy and education. Central themes included creating an accessible, independent web in the age of mobile and the Internet of Things, and promoting widespread digital literacy as the next billion people come online.
In an opening keynote speech, Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, discussed the projected Internet growth in emerging markets, noting the increasing danger of monopolies restricting choice. In the US, iPhones have around a 30% market share, and Android is approximately 58%, but in India Android dominates, with 91% of the market. This limits choice, making Android “the Windows 98 of the developing world”, according to Surman.
Tech monopolies also prevent local entrepreneurs from having an opportunity to build the next generation of leading tools and Internet businesses for their own communities.
“We are at a key moment in the Internet’s history and the freedom of the world is hanging in the balance. Is the web to be a force for control or a tool for independence? We can decide whether to let it slide into digital empires and monopolies or whether to strive for a more democratic, open and participatory new world order,” he said.
“There is an enormous sense of freedom, independence and agency to be gained from wielding technology. It connects people to self expression, and to other people – creating, what I call, ‘citizens of the web’. We should be shaping the tech world around us, rather than letting it shape us.”
Mozilla also announced practical tools for empowering emerging markets through the mobile web. A prototype for Mozilla’s Webmaker for Mobile app, which is scheduled for launch in 2015, was demoed at the event. It enables users to quickly and easily create apps on their smartphones to grow their businesses and connect their communities, while a new $25-$30 smartphone running Firefox OS will help provide access to the web in developing countries.
Digital literacy was highlighted as another crucial policy for building a better future for the web. Mary Maloney, Global CEO of CoderDojo, which led interactive sessions at MozFest, told the audience they all had a duty of care to help others participate.
“For there to truly be a democratisation of the Internet and technology, it takes more than the converted to embrace it”, she said.
“We need to widen participation to everyone, so that kids as young as seven can feel empowered and enabled to become change-makers themselves. When they get to 11, they’re actually changing the world, not just thinking about it. The only limitation in true democratisation is imagination,” she said.
MozFest connects people with the common cause of empowering individuals, and inspires them to collaborate to realise creative ambitions for the web. Although tech empires are increasingly controlling what is possible and imaginable for societies coming online, the festival argued that there can be a counterbalance, and we can level the playing field. One way is to understand the importance of open web advocacy and the other way is to build and teach its solutions.
MozFest ran for three days at Ravensbourne, a media campus located in East London next to the O2 Arena, culminating in a closing demo party last night showcasing what was made during the festival.
For more information, visit: https://2014.mozillafestival.org/.