Engaging Communities to Inspire Digital Innovation

Janice Wait

A new gigabit network rolling out in Detroit is part of a groundswell of innovation currently taking place in this rapidly changing city. To make sure the incredible resource of this gigabit network is made available to more of the community, several organizations recently came together to launch the Equitable Internet Initiative to bring high speed connectivity to more neighborhoods in Detroit. This effort is a partnership between the Detroit Community Technology Project, Allied Media Projects, Grace in Action Collectives, WNUC Community Radio, and the Church of the Messiah’s Boulevard Harambee Program, and aims to build wireless broadband infrastructure and provide community members with the skills necessary to bring their communities online.

We at Mozilla are really interested in how these super fast networks are shaping the future of the internet and of communities. We were honored to be in Detroit as part of the launch of the Equitable Internet Initiative to explore how the high speed network they’re building can be leveraged for community impact.

We believe a healthy internet demands equal participation from diverse communities – that the future of the web should be built by and for all of us, not just a select few. Emerging high speed networks can create amazing possibilities for new technology like smart sensors to support public health and immersive virtual reality applications to expand the reach of teaching and learning. However, we have also seen how these networks can add layers to digital access within communities – advanced internet networks, and the technologies they enable, can feel even more out of reach for those already lacking connectivity.

As the digital landscape changes, it’s important that we’re inviting everyone to participate in a conversation about the potential of new technology to transform their communities and their lives. That’s why we were thrilled to be in Detroit to explore what story they’d like to be able to tell about high speed internet in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Detroit workshop participants make sticky note art during an activity focused on understanding gigabit connectivity

We facilitated an evening workshop that included a series of activities focused on creating a common understanding and shared language around gigabit internet, and inviting participants to think of new technologies that could create real impact. From applications that address pressing public health issues to ways for leveraging high speed networks to improve education, the workshop participants had great ideas they’ll be able to take forward in their neighborhoods as the new gigabit infrastructure is being built.

As communities in Detroit are working to spread the reach of gigabit internet and use that connectivity to inspire community based innovation, our team will continue developing this workshop as a framework of activities to help make these new technologies more accessible and approachable.

We look forward to sharing more of that framework as it’s developed. In the meantime, we wanted to share an activity around understanding gigabit internet connectivity that was a big hit with the workshop participants in Detroit.

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