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Open Technology Initiative: How Geeks, Wonks, & Field Operatives are Fighting to Transform Inside-the-Beltway Policy-Making

Sascha Meinrath, New America Foundation

Tuesday, July 26, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
RSVP required for those attending in person to Amar Ashar (
This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.

Since its founding in 2009, the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative (OTI) has been a catalyst for innovative technology and telecom interventions. OTI's formulates policy and regulatory reforms to support open architectures and open source innovations and facilitates the development and implementation of open technologies and communications networks. OTI is committed to maximizing the potentials of open technologies, particularly for poor, rural, and other underserved constituencies. Through its work, OTI promotes affordable, universal, and ubiquitous communications networks. This talk will focus on three projects that have captured substantial attention over the past year:

1. OTI is working in Philadelphia and Detroit to build community wireless networks in areas underserved by broadband providers. By working with a coalition of local community groups, OTI is tying connectivity to digital literacy and media production training. In addition, this $30 million initiative is provisioning public computer centers and providing computer hardware and training for participants who otherwise would not be able to get online. By helping organize Digital Justice Coalitions in these communities and documenting their success, OTI is developing exemplars that show policy-makers how innovative thinking around broadband service provision would have better outcomes for spreading affordable connectivity throughout the country.

2. OTI coordinates (M-Lab), an open, distributed, global platform for Internet measurement tools. M-Lab is composed of an international coalition of network scientists, public interest groups, companies, and research institutions with a mission is to enhance the transparency of the Internet’s operation and thus help sustain its climate of openness and innovation. Currently, over 250,000 tests are run each day, creating a dataset of over 350TB of broadband information. Public access to M-Lab’s data sets permits policymakers, researchers, service and application developers, and other Internet users to analyze and better understand broadband connectivity worldwide.

3. Commotion Mesh Wireless Project (a.k.a., "Internet-in-a-Suitcase") -- as recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have illustrated (and Myanmar demonstrated several years prior), democratic activists around the globe need a secure and reliable platform to ensure their communications cannot be controlled or cut off by authoritarian regimes. To date, circumvention technologies have focused on developing services that run over preexisting communication infrastructures. Today, OTI is building a new type of tool for democratic organizing: an open source “device-as-infrastructure” distributed communications platform that integrates users’ existing cell phones, WiFi-enabled computers, and other WiFi-capable personal devices to create a metro-scale peer-to-peer (mesh) communications network.

About Sascha

Sascha is the Director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative and Research Director of the Foundation's Wireless Future Program. Sascha has been described as a "community Internet pioneer" and an "entrepreneurial visionary" and is a well-known expert on community wireless networks (CWNs), municipal broadband, and telecommunications policy. In 2009 he was named one of Ars Technica's Tech Policy "People to Watch". Leading news sources, including the Economist, the New York Times, the Nation, and National Public Radio, often cite Sascha's work in covering issues related to CWNs and telecommunications policy. Sascha is a co-founder of Measurement Lab, a distributed server platform for researchers around the world to deploy Internet measurement tools, advance network research, and empower the public with useful information about their broadband connections. He also coordinates the Open Source Wireless Coalition, a global partnership of open source wireless integrators, researchers, implementors and companies dedicated to the development of open source, interoperable, low-cost wireless technologies. He is a regular contributor to Government Technology's Digital Communities, the online portal and comprehensive information resource for the public sector. Sascha has worked with Free Press, the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), the Acorn Active Media Foundation, the Ethos Group, and the CUWiN Foundation. Sascha serves on the Leadership Committee of the CompTIA Education Foundation as well as the Advisory Councils for both the Knight Center of Digital Excellence and the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.

Download media from this event here.

Past Event
Jul 26, 2011
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM