By Wambui Kinya
My introduction to Mozilla was when Firefox was first launched. I was starting my career as a software developer in Boston, MA at the time. My experience was Firefox was a far superior browser. I was also deeply fascinated by the notion that, as an open community, we could build and evolve a product for greater good.
You have probably deduced from this, that I am also old enough that growing up in my native country, Kenya, most of my formative years were under the policies of “poverty reduction programs” dictated and enforced by countries and institutions in the northern hemisphere. My firsthand experience of many of these programs was observing my mother, a phenomenal environmental engineer and academic, work tirelessly to try to convince donor organizations to be more inclusive of the communities they sought to serve and benefit.
This drive to have greater inclusion and representation was deepened over ten years of being a woman and person of color in technology in corporate America. I will spare you the heartache of recounting my experiences of being the first or the only one. But I must also acknowledge, I was fortunate enough to have leaders who wanted to help me succeed and grow. As my professional exposure became more global, I felt an urgency to have more representation and greater voice from Africa.
When I moved back to Kenya, ten years ago, I was excited about the advances in access to technology. However, I was disheartened that it was primarily as consumers rather than creators of technology products. We were increasingly distanced from the concentration of power influencing our access, our data and our ability to build and compete in this internet age.
My professional journey has since been informed by the culmination of believing in the talent that is in Africa, the desire to build for Africa and by extension the digital sovereignty of citizens of the global south. I was greatly influenced by the audacity of organizations like ThoughtWorks that thought deeply about the fight against digital colonialism and invested in free and open source products and communities. This is the context in which I was professionally reintroduced to Mozilla and its manifesto.
Mozilla’s commitment and reputation to “ensure the internet remains a public resource that is open and accessible to us all” has consistently inspired me. However, there is an increased urgency to HOW this is done given the times we live in. We must not only build, convene and enable technology and communities on issues like disinformation, privacy, trustworthy AI and digital rights, but it is imperative that we consider:
- how to rally citizens and ensure greater representation;
- how we connect leaders and enable greater agency to produce; and finally,
- how we shape an agenda that is more inclusive.
This is why I have joined the Mozilla board. I am truly honored and look forward to contributing but also learning alongside you.
Onwards ever, backwards never!