Community-owned broadband infrastructure. That’s what Jonathan Moore is all about.
With Rowdy Orb.it, Moore has been pursuing digital equity — and, he adds, working towards digital dignity — for the residents of Baltimore since 2016. Initially, the company was centered around recidivism and providing opportunity through tech.
Opportunity still remains the goal, but now it’s about maximizing the potential of whole neighborhoods through reskilling in tech that allows communities to have ownership of their data and broadband infrastructure.
To do so, Rowdy Orb.it partnered with community-level groups and technologists to light up free Wi-Fi hubs at community centers in West Baltimore’s Sandtown Winchester, Brooklyn and Cherry Hill over the last 18 months. In the long term, Moore is working toward forming an internet service provider that’s a worker-owned cooperative.
In the latest episode of Technical.ly’s video series on lessons from the pandemic year, Moore and I talked about the future of Baltimore, digital equity and the value of community intellectual property. He offered insight on what he sees as the solutions for some of Baltimore’s systemic issues, and how residents can combat digital poverty.
“At Rowdy Orb.it we’re focused on hiring local residents, training them up and taking our time and understanding who they are as individuals,” said Moore. It’s with an eye toward “who’s going to be ready for the worker-owned cooperative, because I think it’s going to take close to seven years to get a group of individuals that can really run a worker owned cooperative [internet service provider] in Baltimore city.”
Watch our conversation here:
Here’s the audio version:
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-