D.R.E.A.M. How Detroit Residents Built Their Own Internet with Janice Gates

D.R.E.A.M. How Detroit Residents Built Their Own Internet with Janice Gates


Hey, my name is Nick Briz and I’m Jon
Satrom and we run an event series called D.R.E.A.M. or ‘Data Rules Everything Around Me’
presented by Mozilla in partnership with Netizen. The Internet is a network of
networks that spans the entire planet some of those networks are incredibly
impressive like the ones that run across the ocean floor. Others are pretty crappy
like the last mile networks that connect most of us to the rest of the Internet
our ISPs or Internet Service Providers. ISPs vary depending on the types of
technology that they use. Yeah, also in terms of how much they overcharge their
customers or what data they track from us and how much they sell it for and the
kinds of content that they block but the one thing that they all have in common
is they suck. Depending on where you live you usually have the choice between one
or maybe two ISPs to choose from but if you live in a low-income area a rural
area or another wise in that profitable area for an ISP, they’ll just pass you by.
But seeing how communication is a fundamental human right, organizations
like the Detroit Community Technology Project are working to address these
inequities and close the digital divide. We sat down with Janice gates the DCTP director for the Equitable Internet Initiative to talk about what
is peace could look like when they’re owned and controlled by the community.
There’s this idea that if you are living in a low-income neighborhood that you
have to settle for less. This in this case in terms of communications
infrastructure. In Detroit high-speed Internet is really concentrated
in Downtown and Midtown Detroit. 40% of the people in Detroit have no internet
connection at all 60% of people live in homes with no broadband connection and
then the 30% of the population lives below the federal poverty line. The
Equitable Internet Initiative is really our response which consists of tech
organizations and non tech people, artists, activists, community organizers,
and educators. We incubate community owned neighborhood internet service
providers in this effort to redistribute power of resources and connectivity in
Detroit. Most ISPs suck because they are focused on the bottom line and not the
actual people. So, when they think about going into a community they think about
numbers. We look at it as this idea that technology has to be designed for
everyone versus anyone. When you design something for anyone you kind of
disregard where a person is coming from and what they have experienced. When you
design technology and communications infrastructure with everyone in mind.
You make sure that those that are the most affected and the most marginalized
are at the forefront of generating the solutions to their own problems. While
you’re doing that you ensure that that process is participatory, its
collaborative and that’s how you ensure that you have a community owned and
governed network. So, the first step is that we partnered
with organizations that have had really strong reputations and records of
community engagement. From there we hired teachers who then went on to train the
Digital Stewards. We really ensured that the Digital Stewards came specifically
from the communities. They are the ones who build out the communications
infrastructure. The Stewards went through a 20 week training program and so they
learned community organizing skills, so they know how to facilitate
community meetings; they learned how to neighborhoods; they learned how to
conduct and analyze data from surveys; and then the last half of those 20 weeks
were really dedicated to the wireless engineering skills that they would need
to build out this communications infrastructure. Does that take a little
bit longer in terms of building things out? Absolutely. But, digital justice matters.
We are really committed to privacy, security, and consent. Our Digital Stewards
actually have one-on-one conversations with the residents that come onto the
network and they verbally go over the privacy policy. And so, we kind of think
of bridging the digital divide as building a healthy ecosystem.
the Digital Stewards are our community technologists. For us, that means that
they use and build technology in a way and they integrate it into the community
in a way that heals relationships and restores them

Danny Hutson

1 thought on “D.R.E.A.M. How Detroit Residents Built Their Own Internet with Janice Gates

  1. The idea of working with local communities and teaching people how to set up and maintain the tech is awesome 🙌🏽 I wish you all the best for this endeavor 👍🏽

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