In our current age of digital solutions for urban problems this stark digital divide cannot be overlooked.
Bill Callahan, director of Connect Your Community 2.0 compiled data from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2013 to come up with estimates for major US cities. Detroit ranked #2 for worst connectivity. That means that Detroit households had no access to internet, not even a smartphone.
As the City of Detroit launches more mobile apps, start-ups develop digital solutions, and services continually move online – there needs to be a recognition analog connections are necessary. That is unless Detroit wants to leave almost half of its population out of the loop.
Civic technology that utilizes texting services, community groups that help residents increase technology literacy, library branches that offer internet access, and old fashioned people-to-people canvassing will be critical pieces of inclusive Detroit development.
Some great examples of addressing this digital divide are the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition’s (DDJC) Disco-Techs introducing technology at community events around Detroit and the Detroit Digital Stewards program that provided community technology training focused on community mesh networks for internet connectivity.
Bill Callahan provided great leadership in the creation and launch of Connect Your Community (1.0) in multiple cities through a joint ARRA (stimulus funds) grant to OneCommunity in 2009. Partner institutions in Detroit included Focus: HOPE, Matrix Human Services, Child Care Coordinating Council, Wayne State University and the Community Telecommunications Network (CTN). Working together, we were successful in training more than 6,000 people in Detroit, getting them low-cost or free computers (thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield), and getting them low-cost (Comcast Internet Essentials) or free Internet service (thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Clearwire Corporation and CTN.) The Detroit partners continue to work on development of Connect Your Community 2.0, as it’s clear. Our work is not yet done.
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