This October marks the 10-year anniversary of Digital Stewardship in Detroit. Over these years, the Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) has trained Digital Stewards to organize their neighborhoods and build networks to get free and low cost internet access to Detroiters.
As members of the Community Technology Collective, CTNY has worked alongside DCTP to build Digital Stewardship programs across New York State and beyond. We’re proud to recognize the work and leadership of our movement partners, and we’re excited to see what the next 10 years will bring. Read on to learn more about Digital Stewardship.
This last month, CTNY co-designed two DiscoTechs with The POINT CDC in the Bronx and El Puente in Brooklyn. These events allowed us to speak directly with community members about their digital concerns and learn more about how they use technology in daily life.
At El Puente’s ¡WEPA! festival, we set up multiple activity stations to share knowledge on network building, cabling, and internet safety, and spoke to participants about which access issues they find most important.
For more materials on the history of DiscoTechs and how to plan your own, check out the original “How to DiscoTech” zine from the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.
“DiscoTechs have the potential to provide a positive and hopeful experience for youth and seniors, creating a platform where we can teach and learn with each other in ways that allow us to investigate ourselves and our communities. This creates pathways toward solving problems collectively rather than waiting for others to solve them.”
Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, “How to DiscoTech Zine”
It’s the end of July, but we’re still dreaming about the Allied Media Conference!
Earlier this month, CTNY staff had the opportunity to finally see our friends and collaborators again during AMC in Detroit. Together with the Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) and The POINT CDC, we created a space for community members, organizers, and Digital Stewards to explore models of community-owned broadband infrastructure and envision what these projects could look like in both cities.
We kickstarted our AMC week with a network gathering at the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) and NEWCC. We co-hosted a workshop with participants from across our partner organizations in Detroit and explored new models of community-owned internet infrastructure. We grounded our investigation with one simple, but powerful idea: “If majority Black & Brown, historically disinvested communities do not own and control our own means of communication, we cannot succeed in organizing for housing, food, education, environmental justice, and racial equity.”
On our second day at AMC, our friends at NEWCC hosted a community network tour in the North End and Hamtramck neighborhoods of Detroit. Highlights included a community-run solar charging/bike repair station, many exciting rooftop nodes, and the best ice cream shop in Detroit.
More updates from this network gathering are coming soon! (Follow us on socialmedia to stay connected 😉) In the meantime, we hope that the vision of community-owned infrastructure can help shape your digital justice work, as it does for us. We invite you to re-think how broadband ownership can work with us, instead of against us. Who actually owns the internet and how do we build networks that are… more democratic? More sustainable? How do we build networks that are grounded in community care and solidarity?
This month, we worked hard to build networks of care and resiliency with our partners in New York City. Check out what we’ve been up to with our Digital Stewards in Williamsburg and Hunts Point, including practicing our emergency organizing skills and drafting a communications plan.
Don’t Panic, Organize! Workshop w/ El Puente & NYU Students
CTNY and our partner, El Puente, recently co-hosted a community #resiliency workshop with students from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. We put them to the test of putting together their own portable wi-fi network and activating it to communicate with neighbors during a natural disaster. We think they did a pretty good job of keeping their neighborhood connected to critical resources and each other during the midst of Superstorm CTNY. This practice scenario showcases what we think is vital for building resiliency: in an emergency – don’t panic, organize with your community!
Hunts Point Emergency Community Planning w/ The POINT CDC
In part two of this month’s resiliency work, CTNY supported The POINT CDC‘s workshop to create a Hunts Point Emergency Communications Plan. Community members organized to build the plan using the Hunt’s Point Community Network. We’re excited to see the network grow to become a powerful tool for engaging community member’s in environmental justice issues and helping them prepare for future emergencies.
“Where do I see things going from here? I do look at the provision of Internet as a potential opportunity to execute reparations. Yes, I do. Big telecom has the largest profit margins in the country. So why not give back? CEOs say that they are giving to communities in need? Well, give what we need. Give Internet. Just give us the access and we’ll go from there.”
Monique Tate, Co-Director, CTNY
Who’s getting high-speed internet access and why? 99% Invisible spoke to our very own Monique Tate and former Co-director Greta Byrum for the latest episode, “The Future of the Final Mile”, which examines digital redlining and ways we can work to create a more equal internet for all.
In New York City alone, 29% of households do not have access to broadband internet. A long legacy of structural racism in infrastructure plans has left these communities behind in the move online. At Community Tech NY, we believe in empowering neighborhoods to create their own, community-owned internet infrastructure.
As the end of 2021 approaches, Community Tech NY (CTNY) is reflecting on our growth over the last year and would like to take a moment to highlight some changes. In the last seven months, we’ve undergone core staff changes, including three new additions to our team and a transition in our leadership structure. In April, CTNY announced Monique Tate as Director of Partnerships and Engagement. Monique is the organization’s co-director with Raul Enriquez and Houman Saberi. Former co-director Greta Byrum stepped down to lead The Social Science Research Council’s Just Tech Program as Co-Director. Kathy Fall and Anh Le joined the CTNY team in their roles as Project Manager and Program Associate, respectively.
Fourteen percent of NYS residents can’t log on at home. ILR and Community Tech NY are launching the New York State Digital Equity Portal in partnership with the State Department of Education, the New York State Library and The John R. Oishei Foundation.
The portal is an interactive, online data mapping tool for communities and individuals seeking data to inform broadband adoption and improve digital equity for millions of New York state residents without wired internet access.
“Digital inequity is a complex and multi-faceted problem,” said Board of RegentsChancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. “The Board of Regents and I understand that closing digital equity gaps will require the coordination, cooperation, and the intentional capacity-building of the many organizations supporting digital inclusion across New York.”
“We are pleased that the State Education Department and the State Library are part of this effort to make digital equity data open and accessible to all New Yorkers,” said State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa. “Our hope is that it will guide the decision-making and planning of coalitions, organizations, and funders.”
“The NYS Digital Equity Portal is a groundbreaking step to advance digital equity by supporting community leaders to understand the scope of the digital divide,” said Houman Saberi, Co-Director at Community Tech NY (CTNY). “CTNY and our partners are excited to partner with digital equity practitioners to use the portal to develop holistic solutions that advance digital justice.”
Recognizing that access to broadband in and of itself is a limited measure of the digital divide, the NYS Digital Equity Portal allows users to generate interactive snapshots of connectivity, population/demographics, speed and cost of broadband, and other digital equity resources from selected geographies across NYS. Users can analyze the data based on geographies such as congressional districts, zip code, census tract, and New York public library system. The project team plans to develop more data layers through continued research and collaboration with digital equity advocates in New York State.
The NYS Digital Equity Portal reveals barriers to internet access and this data will help communities develop digital equity strategies based on an understanding of digital equity needs, gaps, and priorities.
The NYS Digital Equity Portal is an expansion of the Western New York Digital Divide portal, an online resource created with the support of The John R. Oishei Foundation in late 2020/early 2021. The NYS Digital Equity Portal is supported in part with federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds allocated to the New York State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The NYS Digital Equity Portal can be accessed through Cornell’s website. Technical development of the NYS Digital Equity Portal is led by Dr. Russell Weaver, Director of Research, ILR Buffalo Co-Lab.
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In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the 10th Anniversary of the Green Light District, Community Tech NY partners, El Puente, hosted the annual ¡WEPA! festival in Williamsburg on Saturday, September 26th, 2021. Produced by El Puente’s Green Light District initiative, ¡WEPA! connected local Williamsburg residents, visitors, and the larger El Puente network, which spans across North Brooklyn, for a day of live performances, art-making, and community-building.
As part of the organization’s approach to demystifying technology and ownership, CTNY held a table to share with community members how a Portable Network Kit works and how to crimp their own cables. In the future, CTNY and El Puente plan to continue growing their partnership and engaging community members in workshops to mobilize and build solutions that address their digital equity needs.
In its recent newsletter “Building Our Region Back Better,” published on May 9, 2021, the New York Community Trust (NYCT) featured Community Tech NY as one of its latest grantees. The grantmaking foundation announced its focus towards a more vital and equitable New York City by supporting organizations that help close the digital divide. Community Tech NY is the recipient of a $250,000 grant. The organization will apply the funds to working with its partners — three low-income NYC communities of color — “as they promote digital equity and build internet tools and services as long-term, community-centered solutions to the digital divide.”