We are excited to introduce the 11 seed grantees awarded funding in 2015 for community-controlled communications infrastructure projects. The Open Technology Institute and the Detroit Community Technology Project have utilized funding provided by the Human Rights & Democracy Fund of the U.S. State Department to award each grantee with $10,000 USD in support of their community wireless projects. These projects use a community organizing process to plan, build and govern a shared communications infrastructure in their city or region.
The funding is provided in a context in which digital communications and technologies creates both opportunities and challenges for underserved communities.
Digital communication and technology has been an important tool for enhanced local community media, improved transparency, and organizing on social justice issues. However, technology has also been used within systems of control to enhance surveillance, decrease personal privacy, aggregate the control and creation of information, and exacerbate disparities between groups that have the resources to benefit from a new technology-based economy and those that do not.
To resist these systems, people continue to build community-based technology projects and demonstrate an alternative vision. We are inspired by these small acts of resistance to digital control in neighborhoods, small towns, and rural areas around the world. These projects are rich with lessons in what the role of technology can be to restore neighborhoods, build new relationships, and develop new systems that encourage collaboration and creativity.
Each of the 11 projects that we have funded shares a vision of community technology and digital justice that includes:
- Mutual learning that encourages practice and action, investigation and listening
- Participatory planning and collaborative design
- Collective self-governance
The 2015 Community Technology Seed Grantees are:
AlterMundi, Argentina: AlterMundi is an organization that researches, experiments and disseminates technologies and practices that facilitate the development of a sustainable society, tending to the common good and in harmony with the environment. They will document the technical and social aspects of their successful network so others may replicate their model, and will add support for local applications to LibreMesh, an open source mesh firmware. Learn more here.
Alternative Solutions For Rural Communities, Chin State, Myanmar: This project will build the capacity and stability of an existing community network established by the organization, and allow them to add local server content and increase digital literacy training.
Collective of Community Radio and TV in North Kivu (CORACON), Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo: Building on their network of community media partners, CORACON will facilitate the establishment of a community network to support the creation of local digital media content and sharing of educational content. The network will provide a chat communication platform, radio programming, and educational resources in French. In partnership with Free Press Unlimited.
Falanster, Belarus: Falanster was founded to create the foundation and conditions for sustainable development of civil and cultural side of our society through use of digital technologies. Falanster is establishing a Mesh Club to share information and practice about wifi and mesh networks in our society. Learn more here.
Fantsuam Foundation, Kafanchan, Nigeria: Fantsuam Foundation will build a network to link several villages, as a means of increasing the tempo of civic education and political accountability, conflict resolution, and provide access to secure livelihood information. Learn more here.
School of Computing University of Namibia (UNAM) and Glowdom Educational Foundation (GEF): Connecting Eenhana, Namibia: Staff and students at UNAM are in partnership with GEF, an NGO that works to support learning amongst community members of the small town of Eenhana and surrounding villages. The project aims to support generating and sharing local content and to increase access of schools to educational content, including for learners and students at a Special school for Deaf learners. It also enables UNAM's students to apply their technical knowledge in the real world in supporting local technological empowerment. The evolving network includes an intranet of digital content, analog telephony, a digital noticeboard and solar-powered nodes. Learn more here.
Janastu, COW (Community Owned Wireless) for Devarayanadurga, India: Janastu (“let it be people”) works as a technology research and development support for social and local needs. In partnership with MojoLab Foundation, the project will build a low-cost, autonomous community-controlled network as part of the establishment of a हैकरgram (hackergram) space. The project will pilot and document low-cost technology solutions, such as networked RasberryPi’s to televisions. Hackergram, Janatsu and Mojo Lab are implementation partners for servelots.com
Maria Luisa Ortiz Cooperative (CMLO), Mulukuku Micronet, Nicaragua: CMLO will establish a community network to enhance the capacity of the CMLO to function as a hub for education, media access, local communication and civic participation. This work builds from their community radio station and Internet cafe.
Nuvem, Fumaça Data Springs, Brazil: Nuvem is dedicated to the development of projects related to different types of autonomy, whether in the arts, communications, nourishment and life in the rural areas in general. They will engage community members to set-up an autonomous network providing local applications and cellular service, in an area that currently has no communications infrastructure. Learn more here.
Radio Maendeleo, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo: Established in 1993, Radio Maendeleo is a critical provider of news and cultural content in North and South Kivu. The project will help create digital infrastructure in Bukavu to enhance the community media ecosystem, provide a platform for sharing knowledge, and support their digital engagement activities. In partnership with Free Press Unlimited. Learn more here.
Santa Unipessoal, Maubisse, Timor-Leste: Santa Unipessoal’s Youth Media Mesh project will conduct media-making workshops, create content on the local network for cultural preservation and historical documentation projects, and build a community wireless network linking various sites in Maubisse. The project will be will be led and maintained by Leublora Green School, the first informal educational institution in the country to teach Timorese youths about sustainable use of natural environment and resources, its impact on their lives, and the importance of sustainable development.
Latin American Community Wireless Meetup in Brazil
From October 7-11, the Latin American Community Wireless Meetup will convene our SEED grantees in Central and South America and our community wireless colleagues from Washington D.C for a five day gathering in Visconde de Maua, Brazil. At the meetup SEED grantees will share their community wireless practices and organizing strategies in order to build a strong global network of exchange. The meetup will include hands-on workshops, peer-to-peer consultancies, local application skillshares, and alternative energy skillshares.
Seed grantees attending are Falanster, Belarus; AlterMundi, Argentina; Nuvem, Fumaça Data Springs, Brazil; and Maria Luisa Ortiz Cooperative (CMLO). Network partners attending are the Open Technology Institute and Rhizomatica. DCTP supported in developing the agenda for this event. Stay tuned for more updates from this gathering!
Resources for communities to build their own wireless networks are available in the Community Technology Fieldguide, which includes a neighborhood network construction kit, facilitation tools organizing models and more.
Ryan Gerety is a senior field analyst at the Open Technology Institute, where she continues to work at the intersection of technology and social justice both domestically and internationally.