Something is afoot in East Baltimore, where a non-profit organization seeks to increase residents’ access to broadband internet, computers and technology education opportunities.
With revitalizing and rebuilding the East Baltimore community at the center of its mission, East Baltimore Development, Inc (EBDI), a non-profit organization, recently concluded a research project in collaboration with a grant through the Microsoft Airband program. The project aimed to analyze digital equity gaps and opportunities within the Eager Park project area.
The research findings paved the way for EBDI to develop a comprehensive blueprint for achieving digital equity in various aspects of the community, including affordable housing, local retail, small business capacity building, workforce development, education and healthcare. EBDI also secured a second grant from Microsoft Airband, which will finance the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to address the research findings and fulfill the Eager Park community’s needs. EBDI President and CEO Cheryl Y. Washington told Technical.ly via email that she hopes the next stage of work, including engagement with the community and the greater Baltimore tech ecosystem, will lead to even more innovative and unique approaches.
Washington additionally provided Technical.ly valuable insights on the organization’s proactive approach and strategies to tackle the digital divide. The CEO touched on affordability, access to free or low-cost devices, addressing digital skills gaps, cybersecurity considerations and EBDI’s plans for a new community center as outlined in their report. Here are some noteworthy highlights:
When asked about addressing the affordability of Wi-Fi services in the Eager Park area, Washington said: “We will look at existing grants and discounted options that we can promote to our residents, including the Affordable Connectivity Program. We expect other affordable opportunities to be determined as part of the strategy for implementation that we are launching next.”
Free Community Wi-Fi
Regarding the plans to establish free community Wi-Fi, Washington explained that the details would be determined as part of the upcoming implementation strategy.
To make free or low-cost devices a reality for Eager Park residents, EBDI will collaborate with existing organizations already addressing this need.
“We recognize that Baltimore has several organizations addressing the digital equity gap, and we don’t want to duplicate efforts,” Washington said.
Digital Skills Gap
When addressing the digital skills gap in the community, Washington stated: “The next phase will include developing a plan based on the recommendations that make the most sense for Eager Park and are the best fit for EBDI.”
Cybersecurity concerns are also a priority for EBDI. Washington highlighted the importance of designing training and curriculum in collaboration with organizations that understand the community’s needs. EBDI plans to collaborate with Baltimore’s rich tech ecosystem, including cybersecurity firms, institutions and community organizations.
A new center for digital innovation?
“We hope this will be a place where students from the Henderson-Hopkins school, as well as those working at Johns Hopkins or entrepreneurs at Fast Forward, can come together with residents who may not normally have access or opportunity to innovate or even understand available technologies,” Washington said. The center’s technologies and resources will be determined based on community survey results and industry best practices.
Okay, but where will the new center be?
Regarding the selection process for the community center’s location, Washington stated that EBDI intends to work closely with the community to develop a plan and identify potential funding. The chosen location will be one that best serves the needs of the Eager Park residents.
“One of our immediate next steps is to create new and strengthen existing partnerships to help us implement this work,” Washington explained. “We absolutely want to partner with local organizations, technologists and entrepreneurs to connect Eager Park with Baltimore’s thriving tech ecosystem.”
Regarding metrics and indicators for measuring success, Washington stated that EBDI is still in its early stages and will work with the EBDI board, staff and partners to determine the evaluation criteria as the implementation plan progresses. The outcomes will be regularly assessed and shared with the community.
Knowledge is power!
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