The founding members of One Economy are looking to promote digital advancement via an effort dubbed Centri Tech.
The initiative will target real estate, housing, and technology, among other things, according to its founder.
"Our society is technology-driven and powered by innovation. We can harness these assets for social purpose and reimagine the role of tech to advance digital opportunities that position Americans to thrive in the digital economy," said Centri Tech CEO and founder Rey Ramsey. He said there will be both for-profit and nonprofit elements.
Centri Tech stems from the same root as One Economy, which worked internationally to provide affordable housing and broadband, with the help of, among others, Comcast, Google, Cisco and AT&T.
The first two initiatives from Centri Tech will be 1) Centri-Wilco, a minority-owned platform for "social purpose" broadband connectivity, including for smart homes, buildings and communities, and 2) The Digital Integrators, focused on training the unemployed and underemployed to connect to, and help connect, the digital economy and thus drive broadband adoption.
The initiative is a result, in part, of the COVID-19 pandemic's acceleration of the move to a digital society, and the inequities that exposed stemming from a lack of access to the tools needed for full citizenship in that new society.
FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks, for one, has made addressing those inequities a key goal, saying this week at the Rainbow Push Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Media and Telecommunications Symposium: "Our failure to create inclusive policies that close the digital divide has done serious harm to the Americans who were already struggling to put food on their tables prior to the pandemic."
“Rey Ramsey was one of our most innovative partners for many years," said National Urban League president Marc Morial. "With the Broadband Opportunity Coalition, together we brought connectivity and digital tools to the community we care about. To see Rey Ramsey re-enter the marketplace to digitally advance our communities is exciting and important. We look forward to working with Centri Tech on initiatives in workforce, entrepreneurship and more to improve the economic stability and opportunity available in our communities. The work is just beginning..."
That work will include:
1. "[W]working in urban and rural communities with real estate owners, developers, and financiers of affordable housing to equip low-income and other housing with modern technology-specifically broadband infrastructure, access control and Internet of Things (IoT) smart home automation technologies.
2. Research and development of "tools for municipalities and counties to map available digital opportunities in their region and advisory services to design and execute digital advancement strategies"; and
3. Designing and implementing programs, starting with Digital Integrators.
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