Mozilla to bring Firefox OS to Africa, partners with GSMA to help emerging markets develop web content

Mozilla said phones running its web-based Firefox OS will soon launch in Africa, expanding into a major smartphone growth region at a time when competing smartphone platforms are targeting the entry-level market.

Airtel, MTN South Africa and Tigo, operated by Millicom, will be the first carriers to bring Firefox OS devices to market in Africa, according to Mozilla. In Firefox OS, all of the phone's features are developed as HTML5 applications. Mozilla has targeted Firefox phones to sell for around $25 to $35, especially in market like India. Currently Firefox OS has launched with carrier partners in 25 markets across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia.

"The continued growth of Firefox OS holds great promise for enabling millions more people to access the mobile Web at an affordable cost, while helping to remove control points in today's closed mobile ecosystems," Rick Fant, Mozilla's vice president of planning and ecosystem, said in a statement.

The expansion into Africa comes a few months after Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) unveiled the first phones as part of its Android One program in India. Via Android One, Google is teaming up with local device makers Micromax, Karbonn and Spice in India to produce smartphones that cost around $105 without subsidies. Android One devices will receive the latest versions of Android software directly from Google, keeping them as up to date as high-end phones.

Meanwhile, Mozilla said it is partnering with the GSMA to help consumers in emerging markets develop locally relevant, non-English Web content. According to a whitepaper the organizations produced and which GigaOM highlighted, around 56 percent of existing Web content is in English, even though just 5 percent of the world's population speaks English as a first language. However, only 0.8 percent of Web content is in Arabic and less than 0.1 percent in Hindi, even though those languages are spoken by far more people.

"As a global community of technologists, thinkers and builders, Mozilla is working to keep the Web open and accessible," Mozilla wrote in a company log post. "Both Mozilla and the GSMA--who represent 800 operators in 220 countries--recognize how the mobile Web can shape the industry's future. Collectively, we recognize the role that locally relevant content has to play in improving social and economic outcomes around the world."

Mozilla said that over the next six to 12 months it will be exploring projects focused on low-cost smartphones, digital literacy training and local content, and that initial pilot projects in Bangladesh, Kenya, Brazil and India are currently underway. "We are looking to build a coalition of mobile operators, device manufacturers, educators, international development donors, and NGOs who are interested in positively shaping the future of the mobile Web," Mozilla said.

For more:
- see this Mozilla blog post
- see this separate Mozilla blog post
- see this ZDNet article
- see this GigaOM article
- see this TheNextWeb article

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