The Blueprint for Digital Advancement_

It's Time
Centri Tech Annual Report 2021

Centri Tech mobilizes the full potential of technology to lift the human condition – an approach we call “digital advancement.” This is a moment to not just build physical infrastructure, but also to invest in the capacity of millions of Americans who have the creativity and desire to help build a world where everyone can thrive. This mindset informed how we structured our new venture; with Centri Tech, a for-profit, primarily focusing on the intersection of essential tech infrastructure, housing, and healthcare, and Centri Tech Foundation, a non-profit, investing in opportunities for people and organizations that support digital advancement to create innovative solutions toward achieving an inclusive digital economy.

 

The team behind Centri Tech has led in this space. As founders of One Economy Corporation (2000 – 2012), a global organization that worked in 17 countries with a mission to network affordable housing with broadband and to promote its adoption and use for life-sustaining and life-enhancing actions, we have seen firsthand how technology can improve lives. Our experience in the 2000s proved that internet connectivity can be brought to low-income housing residents at scale, and that intentional efforts to create a culture of use of technology can yield meaningful outcomes for people. 

 

Our approach to social impact is cross-sectoral, engaging the private sector, government, and the social sector–to create a national effort that recognizes not only our nation’s current gaps, but the extraordinary opportunities that materialize when we build an inclusive digital economy.

 

We know that in order to fulfill the promise of digital advancement, we must collect data, advocate for impactful public policy, demonstrate innovative solutions, and build powerful coalitions that activate the creativity, capital, and reach of all sectors and members of society.

 

Advocate Policy Solutions

Centri Tech’s multi-sector approach is a recognition of the unique strengths that each can bring to bear in this effort. The public sector can both convene important stakeholders and create thoughtful public policy that incentivizes those stakeholders to work toward digital advancement. We have a long and successful history of advocating on behalf of low-income people and underserved communities and making their voices heard on the need for digital equity. We know that solutions can’t scale without the support of the government, and we have always sought to educate and inform policy advances that further our goals for social impact. Today, we continue to identify opportunities for the public sector to maximize its influence to ensure allAmericans can realize the promise of this digital age. See how

 

Demonstrate What is Possible

In 2021, our first full year in operation, both Centri Tech and Centri Tech Foundation have been laying the groundwork for digital advancement by engaging our networks, building new partnerships, and gathering new data. And we are also designing programs and projects that will serve to both demonstrate innovative solutions and provide new learning opportunities. Among them, Centri Tech is showing how the low-income housing industry can be activated to achieve universal access for residents, while the Foundation is developing  innovative models to leverage investments in technology access and adoption in  communities to build an inclusive digital economy. See how

 

Engage People and Ideas

Financial capital from the private and public sectors can create scale when tackling infrastructure shortfalls. Philanthropic resources can be brought to bear in designing and testing program ideas. And people can bring the ideas, innovation and creativity that are key to maximizing financial capital’s impact. We believe that when we embrace culture, we can unleash possibilities. And when the culture of a community is integrated in the design of meaningful experiences that promote adoption, we can help people connect to their aspirations.  We  seek out the partnerships of diverse individuals and entities to achieve the best possible outcomes for people. See how

1996 ↓

 

A recognition of our country’s growing “digital divide” takes early hold among policy advocates, spurring public and private efforts to connect the unconnected via public access points, such as libraries and newly-formed “community technology centers.”

2000 ↓

 

First home Broadband installations begin, with about 2.5% of American households connected via an “always-on” Internet connection, surpassing the speed of dial-up connections which maxxed out at 56Kbps.

2000 ↓

 

A new nonprofit organization, One Economy Corporation, forms to help bring internet connectivity, content, and training to low-Income Americans as a means to combat poverty. One Economy’s approach has a particular focus on home-based access for all.

2001 ↓

 

One Economy creates the Beehive, a new online destination for education and tools to help low-income Americans meet the challenges and opportunities related to their finances, health, education, employment, and more.

2002 ↓

 

One Economy launches the Digital Connectors program in Washington, D.C. to hire and train high-school aged youth in technology skills and then deploy them to serve as technology ambassadors in their neighborhoods. This pilot program would ultimately be replicated as a national model in communities from DC to San Francisco, resulting in more than one million hours of service to low-income neighborhoods and 10,000 young people trained.

2006 ↓

 

One Economy launches the Public Internet Channel, a new website devoted to bringing public purpose programming to audiences often left out of the media landscape. The effort was co-chaired by Senators Barack Obama and John McCain.

2009 ↓

 

President Obama signs into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a stimulus package that includes $7.2 billion devoted to promoting broadband infrastructure and adoption.

2010 ↓

 

One Economy receives the largest broadband adoption grant as part of the ARRA from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This $28.5 million grant, backed by $25 million in private match, enables One Economy to expand its reach and impact into communities across the nation through its relationships with over 900 community-based organizations (CBOs), its connection of 27,000 units of affordable housing to broadband, and digital skills training to more than 260,000 Americans.

2010 ↓

 

ARRA also commissions the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a National Broadband Plan, which was unveiled in March. The plan calls for 100 million homes to have 100/50 Mbps internet connections by the year 2020, 1 gig connections to community anchor institutions, and affordable access to in-home broadband connectivity and training for all Americans.

2013 ↓

 

After 13 years of impactful work, One Economy Corporation’s highlights include: pioneering shared in-home broadband access and connecting more than 40,000 low-income households; training 10,000 Digital Connectors as tech ambassadors for nearly 1 million neighborhood residents; creating life-enhancing content and applications used by 20 million people, and creating the Bring IT Home policy campaign, which encouraged in-home broadband in publicly-financed housing in 40 states.

2015 ↓

 

Mobile devices become the most common means of accessing the Internet, partly as a result of telecommunications companies' now-ubiquitous implementation of “4G” or fourth generation mobile networks, capable of transmitting data at speeds of 100Mbps.

2019 ↓

 

Nearly 25 million Americans remain disconnected from broadband at home. For low-income and rural communities the numbers are worst of all–with nearly half of all households making less than $35,000/year still disconnected.

2019 ↓

 

In December, a small group of entrepreneurs, including former founders of One Economy Corporation, found a new company called Centri Tech, to address tech infrastructure and adoption as a means to improve and enhance the lives of Americans, particularly the un- and under-connected.

2020 ↓

 

Early in the new year, the sudden outbreak of a deadly new virus is declared a global emergency. In the U.S., and around the world, stay-at-home orders go into effect and people are left to manage their work, education, and healthcare online. Our collective lack of preparedness for this technological challenge is laid bare.

2020 ↓

 

In November, Centri Tech officially launches, along with its nonprofit, the Centri Tech Foundation. Together, they lay the groundwork to execute on our new national imperative, Digital Advancement.

2020 ↓

 

Local governments, places of business, and school districts all scramble to find fast and effective solutions to our now-obvious technical shortcomings. Some school systems distribute free devices to students that need them to bring classes 100% online. Internet connectivity remains a harder problem to solve, leaving many students to park outside of free public wifi hotspots to download and upload their assignments.

How did we get here?