Civic Engagement

Liberty City Digital Commons (LCDC)

The Liberty City Digital Commons (LCDC) proposes the creation of a Wi-Fi network in Liberty Square, the largest public housing development in Miami’s Liberty City, a historically African American, culturally significant community where fewer than thirty percent of households have Internet access. The initiative will be launched using open technologies for wireless communications, such as mesh networking, to allow for a community-governed resource. The system will use multiple low-cost Wi-Fi devices deployed through the community to relay connections to the global Internet. Along with much-needed Internet access, a key to bridging the digital divide, the LCDC will provide opportunities for job training and volunteer opportunities, as members of the community learn to build and maintain the network; allow high school students to complete online courses needed to graduate; and create the potential for increased civic engagement as residents connect around a shared digital space and collaborate around issues facing their community.

Creating access to affordable high-speed Internet is increasingly seen as a civil rights issue, as essential to life in the 21st century as electricity, water or sewer. However, big questions remain as to whether or not the Internet will continue to be viewed as a solely commercial space, or if there might be alternative, public options to counterbalance the current model. By targeting a specific geography, one with clear technological needs and challenges presented by an ever-widening digital divide, the LCDC will generate best practices for designing a community Wi-Fi that is based on civic engagement and seeks positive outcomes such as increased educational attainment, valuable onsite job training, and public dialogue around key issues. LCDC will also identify strategies for overcoming potential obstacles for community Wi-Fi projects, so that this effort can be scaled up from one neighborhood to the rest of Liberty City, and then replicated in other communities throughout Miami.

Who are you?

We represent a coalition that includes the Education Effect at Miami Northwestern High School, the School of Journalism at Florida International University, the Liberty Square Trust, and the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation.

How does this project impact the issue you selected?

Providing open access to the Internet offers essential opportunities for civic engagement, whether seeking out volunteer opportunities, launching voter outreach campaigns, or running/joining community organizing initiatives. LCDC users will be able to use the network as a portal to both seek and post job and educational opportunities, and through these efforts, contribute to a community that is focused on strengthening social capital.

What data points from The Our Miami Report does your project address?

Because political engagement now relies heavily on digital media, increasing Internet penetration can boost voter outreach campaigns and ensure greater engagement around pressing issues when voters go to the polls. LCDC will create volunteer opportunities as residents build and maintain the Wi-Fi network, and learn of other volunteer opportunities posted to the network such as community gardening, working with charitable and after school programs, and joining neighborhood revitalization efforts.

Please give examples of your project's success.

LCDC is modeled after other successful open Wi-Fi projects launched by a project partner, the Open Technology Institute, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and in neighborhoods throughout Detroit. Additionally, one of the benefits of launching a community-based Internet project like LCDC is that there will be useful metrics used to measure whether or not the project is meeting its goals—among them general usage data, popular access points, time users spend on the network, and the peak times for use.

Organization Name (or individuals name) Florida International University

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