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ADVISORY: Post-Sandy Tech Initiative to be Featured at White House Event

Published:   February 6, 2013

Washington, DC — An event at the White House today highlighting innovative disaster response solutions will feature the joint work of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) and the Red Hook Initiative (RHI). In the wake of Superstorm Sandy last November, the two organizations worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), neighborhood volunteers and local businesses to rapidly expand a community wireless network that they had established in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
 
The network expansion meant hundreds of area residents could access crucial information, check in with family and friends, and apply for disaster assistance online even after many traditional broadband services failed in the area. OTI and RHI also launched an SMS-based local application that streamlined the community’s ability to report, map, and respond to issues, both disaster-related and longstanding.
 
Today's FEMA ThinkTank event at the White House starts at noon EST. Call-in is 888-324-6998, passcode THINK TANK.
 
“For years, our community wireless initiatives have demonstrated the value of integrating technological infrastructure and digital literacy to build social and economic capital,” said OTI Director Sascha Meinrath. “Our work in Red Hook is an innovative model for public-private partnerships that equips neighborhoods for disaster response by empowering them with the expertise to maintain and expand their digital environments.”
 
News quickly spread of the innovative collaboration between OTI and RHI and the organizations’ ability to work across stakeholder groups, including community members, private companies, and federal agencies. The City of New York is now supporting the two organizations to develop a digital skills training for neighborhood youth, who will learn to maintain and expand the network.
 
“We base our work in the principles of community control and empowerment,” said RHI Media Programs Coordinator Anthony Schloss. “Residents and businesses in Red Hook know what their neighborhood needs; this collaboration supports them in accessing information and creating tools to address those needs.”
 
Schloss and OTI Field Analyst Jonathan Baldwin will speak at today’s White House event. OTI Field Operations Technologist Georgia Bullen will also be speaking about the Red Hook network today at the Federal Communications Commission’s Workshop on Network Resiliency in New York City.
 
The Red Hook wireless network uses Commotion, an open-source communication tool that runs on mobile phones, computers, and other wireless devices to create decentralized networks. OTI is developing Commotion for contexts where access to the Internet is restricted or absent, whether as a result of government censors, lack of infrastructure, or natural disaster. The Red Hook network is an example of the tremendous potential of this technology to make vulnerable areas more resilient.
 
Learn more about the Red Hook wireless network here: http://oti.newamerica.net//node/78575.
 
FEMA ThinkTank event starts at noon EST, call-in 888-324-6998 passcode THINK TANK; learn more at http://www.fema.gov/fema-think-tank.
 
FCC Workshop on Network Resiliency runs from 10:00-4:30 EST at the Brooklyn Law School Forchelli Center, 205 State St Brooklyn, NY; learn more at http://edas.info/web/fcc-nr2013/program.html.
 
To schedule an interview, please contact Clara Hogan.

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