Detroit Community Technology Project was born from a legacy of coalition work and collaboration, building on Allied Media Projects’ (AMP) nine year track record of digital media education and community technology building in Detroit.
Allied Media Projects partnered with the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation in 2012 to create the Digital Stewards (DS) Program, which trains neighborhood leaders in designing and deploying community wireless networks with a commitment to the Detroit Digital Justice Principles. To date, DCTP has implemented the DS training with leaders from seven Detroit neighborhoods, followed by four Equitable Internet Initiative neighborhoods in both Detroit and Highland Park. DCTP has supported 11 more community groups internationally to adopt and modify the training for their own contexts. As our principled approach and the Digital Stewards program continued to find firm footing in community, new people-based resources and programming grew, aimed at enabling community participation in online economies, education, and safe navigation of online spaces. DCTP formed officially in 2014 to encompass broader community technology education and organizing work and to share best practices.
After many iterations in Detroit and New York, the Digital Stewards Program began to see new life as Gigabit fiber was introduced in the city of Detroit, threatening to widen an already oppressive digital divide. In 2015, DCTP introduced the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), our attempt to redistribute power, resources, and connectivity to the most marginalized of Detroiters. We began with partners in three neighborhoods: Islandview, North End, and Southwest. As neighborhood-level strategy played out to help bring more Detroiters online in a meaningful way, DCTP shifted focus to also address how Detroiters were impacted by broader systems of data collection and surveillance technologies, both on and offline. How much did folks know about their digital data bodies? How much could they protect themselves? The Data Justice Program was introduced in 2016, just as the city was ramping up promotion of Detroit’s Open Data portal. It quickly blossomed into a vital companion to EII and the work of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.
The Digital Stewards curriculum has inspired many other community technology curricula used within, and in conjunction with, DCTP’s programming. These include a Consentful Tech curriculum built with the Consentful Tech Project, and the Next Gen Apps curricula developed by EII anchor organization Grace in Action and their Radical Productions team. As we continue to learn and grow, DCTP remains committed to decentralizing our resources and experience, and making community technology accessible across Detroit and the world.