Equitable Internet Initiative
What is EII?
Since 2015, Detroit has been one of the country’s worst connected cities. In a city with a median household income of $26,249, 38% of homes have no Internet connection, 63% of low income homes have no in-home broadband, and 70% of school-age children have no Internet access at home.
Through the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), we are creating the world we want to see! It’s a world with a healthy digital ecosystem that allows our communities to fully realize their right to communicate, participate, and fully engage in all areas of society. Within our communities, we practice consent, prioritize privacy, and establish best practices to secure our networks and customer data.
We address Internet access in Detroit through neighborhood-governed community wireless networks.
This initiative is a collaboration with DCTP and 3 organizations in Detroit — Grace in Action in Southwest, Church of the Messiah in Islandview, and the North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC) in the North End and Highland Park — as well as Community Tech New York.
The goals of this initiative are to:
- Increase Internet access through shared Gigabit Internet connections
- Increase Internet adoption and community-centeredness through the Digital Stewards program
- Increase pathways for Detroit residents into the opportunities of Detroit’s tech sector
In 2017, we trained 45 Digital Stewards across three Detroit neighborhoods. Each steward completed a 20 week training program that included community organizing and wireless engineering. In 2018, we completed the pilot year and connected more than 150 homes across three neighborhoods. In 2019, our partners at NEWCC expanded into Highland Park. We are focused on adoption, sustainability network expansion and creating resiliency strategies for our neighborhoods.
Integral to our work are the Digital Stewards. They are community organizers, media makers, educators, artists, and neighborhood leaders. They come from the neighborhoods they work in, are Black and other people of color, and range in age from elders to teens. They demystify technology for their communities, working according to our collective EII Working Principles.
That demystification looks like intentional network build-out and design, community workshops and trainings, neighborhood advisory councils, and participatory design sessions with community.
- Homes with no or low-speed connections,
- those with family members in educational programs,
- homes of elders,
- homes where families participate in government assistance programs, and
- those located in a vulnerable areas that may experience flooding, water shut offs, black/brown outs, or other emergencies.