My connection to Community Technology

As a co-coordinator of the Community Technology Network Gathering this year, I have been thinking a lot about how I came into this work, and why we are having a gathering this year at the AMC.

I got my start in community technology through low power FM radio (LPFM). This was many years ago at this point, but the lessons I learned working with community organizations around the United States (and world) shaped how I think about technology, and how individuals and communities engage with that technology. Community radio taught me that technology should make communication more frequent, more affordable, and easier. Radio is still somewhat unique in that it is very affordable and accessible to the listener. There is still a relatively high bar for entry if you are building a station – in terms of licensing, expense, and organizing effort. That said, community radio has amazing transformative potential and outcome in every place it exists.

Bukavu rooftop
Installing community wireless networking equipment

For the past few years, I have been working on using similar principles in building community wireless networks (CWNs). Along the way, I discovered digital justice principles, and found them deeply resonant with how I try to engage with communities. Many of these principles apply directly to the work I do with communities to build their own network infrastructure. I believe that when communities build their own infrastructure, it opens up new possibilities and avenues for communications, and can strengthen that community. It doesn’t come without hard work and a lot of organizing though!

Which brings me to one of the reasons why my fellow co-coordinators and I are putting together this gathering – sharing with each other and learning about how organizers from around the world engage in technology projects with their communities. Every community is unique, and all of our work is specific to the context of those communities. By discovering how other communities develop their own technologies for justice and addressing issues, we can strengthen our own communities.

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