Ever wondered what a “community wireless network” is? Want to learn how to share an Internet connection in your community? Check out this interview with The Detroit Community Technology Project on The Next Idea, a project of Michigan Radio whose mission is to share “new innovations and ideas that will change our state.”
In the interview, Diana Nucera, Director of the Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP), and Cliff Samuels, a member of the Detroit Digital Stewards Network, discuss how to expand digital inclusion and digital literacy in Detroit’s neighborhoods through community wireless networks.
“How do we make the Internet relevant to people?” Diana asks in the interview which aired on Michigan Radio on March 3. “More than just consuming media, how do they then become producers of their own media, producers of their own infrastructure and start building the Internet in a way that makes sense to their neighborhoods?”
Since 2012, DCTP has trained over 60 people through the digital stewards training program, built six functioning wireless networks in Detroit neighborhoods, and partnered with the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation to support the development 11 global networks. The City of New York has also adopted the digital stewards training model as part of a RISE NYC project in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Read and listen: “Communities growing Detroit’s digital capacity one house at a time” on Michigan Radio’s The Next Idea.
On the advantages of a community wireless network:
“The beautiful thing about a community wireless network … is that you’re able now to share one connection. Most of us are used to having a single connection so what’s tricky is actually convincing people that it’s ok to share an Internet connection. What we’ve been calling this is ‘digital philanthropy’ - thinking about this as a way for neighbors to connect with each other and get to know each other.” - Diana Nucera
“There is also an intranet - not only can neighbors share Internet connections but the network will work without the Internet … a neighborhood can design what kind of data they want to store, what kind of applications they want to use to communicate.” - Diana Nucera
“Unlike models in the past in which groups go into the community and just slap technology on them and leave, digital stewards... find out their needs and concerns, help them construct the systems that will help solve their problems, and then also at the same time train them on maintaining the systems.” - Cliff Samuels
On the impact of the digital stewards program for marginalized communities in Detroit and beyond:
“There’s always been a belief that people of color really don’t understand or use or develop technology. My goal … through the digital stewards is to show that this is a false belief, that yes, people of color, black people, women, Latinos, we understand technology. … We’re into tech, it’s just that the current paradigm really doesn’t show us as a major contributor.” - Cliff Samuels
“It’s amazing what’s coming out of detroit and how relevant and important that is to other places that are finding similar issues. I would like to see this model scale, and community organizations and block clubs running their own versions of Digital Stewards programs, because I believe it’s important to build the digital capacity of Detroit as the city is being developed and shifting to a ‘smart city’ infrastructure.” - Diana Nucera
Want to join the Detroit digital stewards community? The Detroit Digital Stewards Network holds meetings are every second and fourth Thursday of the month from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Allied Media Projects (4126 Third St.). Members get together to explore and learn new technologies with the goal of supporting community owned wireless infrastructure (wifi networks). Fill out this form to get involved!