December 07, 2018

Digital equity at MozFest: TEC across the pond

This year, The Enterprise Center was asked to present at MozFest, Mozilla’s yearly celebration of the open Internet. With tracks on everything from privacy and security to gaming, the festival highlights technology and innovators from around the world.

Chattanooga was well-represented this year, with the Mozilla Foundation’s Lindsey Dodson and the Public Library’s Meredith Levine, alongside our own Geoff Millener, amongst the attendees.

MozFest presented an exciting opportunity to share some of Chattanooga’s gigabit story with an international audience. Alongside other Mozilla Fellows and grant awardees, Geoff spoke about pursuing digital equity in the gigabit age and how our Mozilla-supported 4K Microscope project is transforming public education. Thanks to EPB’s fiber optic network, high school students across the county have access to next-generation technology normally out of the reach of most universities.

The weekend also offered an excellent opportunity to learn from other cities and countries, all doing crucial work, particularly in advancing civic digital equity and inclusion efforts.

This year’s MozFest featured, for example, the inimitable Deb Socia; as founder of Boston’s Tech Goes Home, her influence is felt every day as our own program grows in the Gig City. Her work at Next Century Cities, too, continues to shape broadband policy and adoption efforts across the country.

One highlight of the festival was the #MobileOnly challenge, co-sponsored by Next Century Cities and the Good Things Foundation, which tasked participants with completing seemingly everyday activities using only our cell phones. We were assigned a persona - David, a homeless resident of London - and the challenge of finding a low-cost post office box to establish an address for social services. And we failed. Miserably. It was an eye-opening walk in the footsteps of, we later learned, a very real individual whose only access to the Internet is via a cell phone.

Other friends in attendance included NDIA President Angela Siefer and rockstar librarian Carrie Coogan, of the Kansas City Public Library. They facilitated an international conversation on digital equity and inclusion, with representatives from a dozen countries joining in the discussion. Also in town from Kansas City was KC Digital Drive’s Aaron Deacon, who joined the Enterprise Center team in a session on city infrastructure and the digital divide (as well as in finding London’s best lamb chop).

And no account of MozFest 2018 would be complete without noting that our good friend from Lafayette, LA — Matt Delcambre, of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Center for Business and Information Technologieshelped thwart the theft of Salisbury Cathedral’s copy of the Magna Carta. This came as no surprise to anyone, as Matt was voted “Most likely to tackle a thief stealing a priceless document” at our most recent gigabit city gathering.

From digital storytelling for students to a data detox to cities localizing the Internet Health Report to rural broadband efforts, both local and global, it was an intense weekend for learning — how communities around the globe are removing barriers, and how citizens are taking control of their digital lives. MozFest was an important reminder that there’s more work to be done, but we’re not alone in doing it.