Red Hook Wifi is a community-led project that aims to create economic opportunities, close the digital divide and improve the quality of the life of the Red Hook community. It bridges residents, organizations, and businesses together while serving as a lifeline to create a neighborhood digital community. This effort will be led by the “Digital Stewards”, a group of young adults between the ages of 19-24 who will help maintain, promote, and install this network.

The WiFi project was initiated by Red Hook Initiative’s Media Coordinator Tony Schloss. OTI’s Field Analyst Johnathan Baldwin joined in and created Tidepools, a social mapping application that connects residents to certain services such as finding out times for the B61 bus and reporting stop and frisk incidents. They then installed antennas on top of the Red Hook Initiative Building and with help from FEMA and a Brooklyn-based internet service, Brooklyn Fiber, installed more throughout Coffey Park.This created wireless hotspots around a three block radius of the RHI building and around Coffey Park, which was a potential lifeline during Hurricane Sandy recovery.

There is a need to close the gap between those that do and don’t have access to the internet and other related services. Research shows that among minorities, approximately 40% access the Internet primarily through their smart phone. Additionally, 40% of users ages 18-29, and 42% of households with incomes under $30,000 also access the Internet in this fashion. The majority of the 10,000 residents of the Red Hook Houses fall into one or more of these categories.

In their first year, the Digital Stewards will create more wireless access points, applications for assistance such as job listings and community meetings, create advertisements for local businesses and non-profit organizations, and maintain an online bulletin board of community events. We hope to provide WiFi overage to 80% of public spaces by the end of 2013. The Stewards will further be managed, assisted, and mentored by RHI staff, a team of OTI Field Analysts and other technological experts. By the program’s end, experience and further knowledge of computer networking and design will be gained, with a goal of leading Stewards to high-paying employment or education in a related field.

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