Rooted in Community: The Equitable Internet Initiative, with Janice Gates

About 38% of households in Detroit have no broadband connection at home with 63% of low-income households with no broadband connection. The median household income in Detroit is $26,249. Up to 70% of school-aged children in Detroit have no Internet access at home. In Detroit’s lower-income communities, affordable internet access either does not exist or comes at the cost of slower and lower quality internet speeds. Through the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), we are creating a new world, one we believe is possible. This is also how we address the digital divide in Detroit. Through this initiative, we work in 4 Detroit neighborhoods to build community governed ISPs and bring our communities online. Participants will learn how we train Detroit residents as Digital Stewards to build out the network infrastructure. We will discuss the Detroit Community Technology Project’s (DCTP) commitment to community technology and the history and context of our work. We will also share EII’s impact on these neighborhoods and its community members as well as the challenges each has been confronted with. Participants will learn about the EII principles, community engagement practices, use of participatory design, and how these practices ensure that those most marginalized by the digital divide are at the forefront of generating the solutions to challenges they face. In addition, participants will learn how EII practices data justice within their networks particularly as they work with other organizations and community members to resist the implementation of harmful technologies like Project Greenlight and facial recognition. Finally, we will share how DCTP views their role as an organization in the context of Detroit.

Janice Gates is director of the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), where she has works with community anchor organizations to implement EII in three Detroit neighborhoods, and develop strategies for sustainability, business and expansion planning, strategic partnerships, workforce development and Digital Stewards trainings. She is committed to the EII Principles of collaborative problem solving, storytelling, education, organizing, community ownership, authentic relationships, digital security, privacy and consent and the Detroit Digital Justice Principles that focus on access, healthy communities, participation and common ownership. Her certifications include Ubiquiti Enterprise Wireless Administration and Ubiquiti Broadband Wireless Admin. She has presented on the Equitable Internet Initiative at the Brooklyn Public Library, Columbia University, Internet Freedom Festival, University of Michigan, Allied Media Conference, Stanford University and the Re:publica Conference. She is committed to principles of collaborative problem solving, storytelling, education, organizing, healthy communities, community ownership, digital security, privacy and consent.