Get to Know the Detroit Community Technology Project

The Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) supports the use and development of technologies that address community needs, strengthen our human connections to one another and to the planet.

The work of DCTP grows out of the hands-on technology lab of the Allied Media Conference and the Detroit Future Media training program that ran from 2011-2013. In 2012 Allied Media Projects partnered with the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation to create the Digital Stewards Program, which trains neighborhood leaders in designing and deploying community wireless networks with a commitment to the Detroit Digital Justice Principles.

We launched the Detroit Community Technology Project in 2014 in order to offer community organizing support to a growing number of community wireless networks in Detroit and globally. Through DCTP, we are developing participatory civic technology practices and education toolkits. We are exploring and demystifying technology, and using it to address problems facing low income neighborhoods. DCTP works collaboratively and intergenerationally to address questions of Internet access, digital literacy, and technology infrastructure.

Digital Stewards
Digital stewards working on the Cass Corridor network

A significant number of Detroit residents lack broadband access. Many households cannot afford Internet service. Through DCTP, we design solutions, such as community wireless networks, to address this lack of access. We emphasize the process of building these solutions, as much as the product.

We ask how can media and technology help restore community and create new economies rooted in local relationships. We explore how Internet infrastructure can be an important part of neighborhood development. In all of our work we take a principled approach to technology projects and Internet access that places value on equity, participation, common ownership and sustainability. We work to expand digital literacy in our communities so that Internet users can be not only consumers of online content, but creators as well.

Digital Stewards Program

The Digital Stewards Program continues as an important part of the Detroit Community Technology Project. “Digital stewardship” is a principled approach to local technology that emphasizes self-governance and sustainability. Digital stewards uplift and maintain technology in their local communities in order to foster healthy relationships and increase access to critical information.

With the support of Anderson Walworth, IT Coordinator at DCTP, the Detroit Digital Stewards, a group of community leaders ranging in age from 21-80, are currently working on expanding mesh wireless networks throughout city neighborhoods and community centers including Morningside, Poletown, Field St., The Boggs School, Ewald Circle, and Southwest Detroit. Anderson and Diana Nucera, Director of DCTP, are also digital stewards of the largest community wireless network in Detroit, CassCo, which is located in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. With the support of the Open Technology Institute, they have been building the infrastructure of CassCo for the past two years. We are preparing to launch a resident adoption phase of the CassCo network in Fall 2015.

In conjunction with the expansion of the Cass Corridor network, we are developing a new local radio application, the Detroit Music Box, which will be available on the mesh network this fall. The application was built using open source applications (Podcast Generator and Icecast) and will live on both the mesh server and the Internet. The mission of Detroit Music Box is to tell the story of Detroit’s neighborhoods through sound. Anyone can submit a story about the Cass Corridor!

New Projects

As our work continues to grow, we are working with our partners at the Open Technology Institute to support several international community wireless seed grantees located in Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Namibia, India, and beyond. These seed grantees are six month community wireless projects that are built in collaboration with community organizations and OTI technologists. We are facilitating this network of projects in adopting digital stewardship practices such as collaborative network design and community technology gatherings. Our ultimate goal is to assist these projects in developing sustainable community technology practices that will allow their wireless networks to thrive in the long-term.

Belarus Seed Grantee
Seed Grantees in Belarus

Belarus Seed Grantee
Seed Grantees in India

Alongside our growing international network of projects, we continue to work closely with the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition to organize DiscoTechs - multimedia community technology fairs. We are excited to host our first “Data DiscoTech” on August 8, which will teach community members and organizers how to access, analyze, and make use of open datasets about the city and their communities, as well as generate their own community-level datasets. In concurrence with the DiscoTechs, we are developing a set of digital justice provisions in response to the City of Detroit’s recently released open data plan. We strive to demystify open data to make it more accessible to grassroots groups.

Through our work we have learned many important lessons, which we continue to share through ongoing documentation. We have created a wide range of community technology educational materials which expand upon the theories and practices of digital stewardship. These include case studies, facilitation guides, and best practices for collaborative community wireless network design. Check out some of these resources here.

Finally, we are excited to be organizing a Community Technology Network Gathering on June 18 at this year’s Allied Media Conference. This network gathering will convene local and national technologists and organizers to further develop community technology theories and practices. This is an open network gathering with a capacity of 75 participants. Join us and learn how you can support local and national community technology work!

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