Detroit Digital Justice Coalition Awarded $2 Million to Enhance Local Information Economy

The Detroit Digital Justice Coalition (DDJC), in partnership withMichigan State University, is receiving approximately $2 million in federal stimulus funds to support its community organizing and economic development efforts in the Detroit area.

Over the next two years, the grant will support partnerships between local digital media entrepreneurs and teachers to integrate digital media arts into the core curriculum of area high schools. It will work with teams of young people to enhance the online presence of local small businesses and community organizations. The program will also provide training and outreach to build a sustainable local market for digital services.

This program expands on the DDJC’s ongoing deployment of affordable mesh wireless broadband networks and its series of local Discovering Technology “DiscoTech” neighborhood fairs. As part of the federal grant, the Small Business Training and Development Center will be providing support for digital media entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“As more Detroiters create their own jobs – from computer-repair to soil-remediation to independent record labels – high-speed Internet access and digital media skills are essential.  Young people have an important role to play as teachers and innovators in this growing information economy.  Through this program we will expand our communities’ capacity to transform Detroit from the ground up,” said Lottie Spady, Associate Director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, a member of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.

The DDJC is part of a city-wide effort by hundreds of community organizations and individuals to address Detroit’s most pressing challenges through creativity and collaboration.

“The year-long process behind this grant offers a replicable model for how grassroots organizations can come together across a diverse spectrum of issues and communities, synthesize a vision for citywide change and then organize to make that vision real,” said Jeanette Lee, Program Director forAllied Media Projects, a member of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.

The federal grant is through Michigan State University, which has also received stimulus funding to expand computer centers in rural and urban communities throughout the state.  In addition to providing training and outreach, the Digital Justice Coalition is supporting ten local computer centers in Detroit and Hamtramck. The grants are part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), created through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 and administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, which has promoted civil rights and social justice in Detroit since 1941, is serving as the fiduciary for the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.

Kurt DeMaagd, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, who is leading the statewide project, said, “Broadband adoption has the ability to transform Michigan’s urban areas into information economies. This project gives high school and college students an opportunity to make a difference firsthand in their communities with MSU training and support.”

The grant is focused on Michigan’s Cities of Promise – Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Muskegon Heights, Pontiac and Saginaw, and expands MSU work already underway throughout Michigan, DeMaagd said, complementing a $6 million grant announced in August to create more public computer centers in Michigan’s urban areas. With an earlier round of funding – a $1 million grant announced earlier this year – MSU began installing computers in 88 existing library computer centers and establishing new centers to provide broadband access for people in rural areas of Michigan.

“Combined, these three grants will have impact throughout the state of Michigan. They will help transition Michigan to an information economy, which is crucial to economic progress,” said Pamela Whitten, dean of the MSU College of Communication Arts & Sciences, which houses the grants.

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