Open Technology Institute Proposes Mesh Networking Initiative for Resilience and Economic Development in Areas Impacted by Superstorm Sandy
(Targeted News Service Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WASHINGTON, June 9 -- The New America Foundation issued the following news release:
When Superstorm Sandy hit Brooklyn, a community wireless mesh network in Red Hook helped residents tell people where help was needed and where it was available; distribute food, blankets, and supplies, including among elderly residents of public housing; stay in touch with friends and families; and tell the world stories about what was happening. Even when power and cell networks went out across most of the neighborhood, Red Hook WiFi kept people connected.
New America's Open Technology Institute (OTI) is exploring an opportunity to create resilient local mesh networks like Red Hook WiFi with communities across New York City that are vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding. OTI has advanced to Stage 2 of the New York Economic Development Corporation's "Resilient Innovation for a Strong Economy" (RISE:NYC) competition, (http://rise-nyc.com/) and is seeking community-based organizations and small businesses as potential partners.
The proposed networks will provide Wi-Fi Internet access, offer workforce development and digital skills training opportunities for local residents, and make vulnerable communities more resilient to disasters like Superstorm Sandy.
The small businesses partners will host Commotion (http://commotionwireless.net/) routers to seed neighborhood wireless networks. With support from OTI, the community-based organizations will each host a "Digital Stewards" (http://oti.newamerica.net/blogposts/2014/digital_stewardship_and_your_community-108401) training program for community residents to install the routers and maintain the network as it grows. OTI is asking interested partners to complete a survey to determine their eligibility for the project.
OTI's proposal builds on a successful partnership between OTI and the Brooklyn-based Red Hook Initiative (RHI) (http://rhicenter.org/) to develop the network and training program that helped the community recover from Superstorm Sandy. OTI has since worked with RHI to train a team of young people to expand and maintain the network, which now includes more than 15 hotspots in the neighborhood. The trainees, known as "Digital Stewards," learned new skills in the process, and many have earned jobs or apprenticeships in the tech industry as a result of the program.
"Mesh networking combined with our Digital Stewards program builds the social and digital connections that communities need to survive and recover from natural disasters," said Greta Byrum, a Senior Field Analyst at the Open Technology Institute who is leading the proposal team.
OTI plans to train up to a hundred city residents to install and maintain the networks. In the event of a disaster, these residents will help their neighbors coordinate with each other, correspond with loved ones, and share critical information with first responders and volunteers. In the case of Red Hook, the Digital Stewards have teamed up with an Internet service provider to use the network to deliver free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the neighborhood.
"The experience in Red Hook (http://oti.newamerica.net/blogposts/2013/case_study_red_hook_initiative_wifi_tidepools-78575) has shown us the resilience, and the economic and social impact, of combining open technology, hands-on training and deep community engagement," said Alan Davidson, New America's Vice President for Technology Policy and Strategy, and Director of the Open Technology Institute. "This is a great opportunity to scale up a proven model for resilience in New York City."
RISE:NYC is focused on small businesses that were directly impacted by Sandy. OTI will scale the proposal based on the number and suitability of small businesses and other community partners that sign up to participate before the end of June. OTI is particularly seeking small businesses that are clustered together in neighborhoods that face persistent challenges in overcoming the digital divide. Interested businesses can sign up by completing an online survey.( https://docs.google.com/a/opentechinstitute.org/forms/d/1JUhoeA8xwOPfd6eCji5r1s8zO48u9IDEYvRP-XquE-c/viewform)
Community-based organizations that want to house a Digital Stewards training program for their community should complete a separate survey (https://docs.google.com/a/opentechinstitute.org/forms/d/10YvYTw-YDaVkn1wK4i8LcGJfipuc2HPd0BtDz-WPgDU/edit)
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