The Role of ICT in Collaboration for Detroit’s Redevelopment: ICT4Detroit Project

Detroit is emerging as a test bed for initiatives aimed at reversing the city’s decline and building on early signs of progress. These efforts are coming from a range of sources, including federal, state and local governments, major corporations, startups and startup incubators, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, non-profits and citizen-driven community groups. While the depth and dimensions of Detroit’s challenges may be historically unique, so too are the opportunities for redevelopment-focused communication, visualization, computation and collaboration afforded by today’s information and communication technologies (ICT) like the Internet and related social media.

Many community initiatives are focused almost entirely on grassroots, face-to-face, interpersonal networks of communication. However, some initiatives are creatively and effectively using the Internet and related ICTs to empower some nonprofits, community groups and individuals involved in Detroit’s redevelopment. Where, when and how the Internet can and should support Detroit’s redevelopment initiatives is the focus of this Quello Center Project.

Key questions raised by our project include:
• To what extent and in what specific ways are ICTs being (not) used to support redevelopment initiatives in Detroit?
• Is the Internet supporting such goals as greater collaboration, more citizen engagement, or outreach by redevelopment projects?
• How is such usage impacting the success of such initiatives?
• Does ICT usage and its impacts vary by type of organization and/or by the specific goals and sectors they target for redevelopment?
• What are the major success stories in Internet related initiatives for Detroit? Do they suggest combinations of organization- and project-type best suited to leverage the power of ICTs in the development process?
• How important are leadership and organizational structure and processes in determining how successful an organization and project will be in using ICT to help achieve its revitalization goals?
• In what ways does the use of ICT impact the structure, function and effectiveness of redevelopment-focused organizations and projects, and to what extent does this impact vary by type of organization, project and project goals?
• To what extent are obstacles to ICT usage (e.g., lack of connectivity, affordability, digital literacy) a constraint on the success of redevelopment initiatives?

Our exploratory research is initially focused on the role of the Internet in supporting nonprofits and other groups committed to the redevelopment of Detroit. This exploratory phase is designed to refine our understanding of the complex and huge city and the wide range of (non)ICT initiatives involved in supporting redevelopment efforts.

This project is being conducted by Bill Dutton and Bibi Reisdorf in its early phases with support from our Detroit team of Kat Hartman and Dontae Freeman.

Detroit courtesy of Knight Foundation

Detroit courtesy of Knight Foundation

Quello Working Papers

ICT4Detroit: Examples of Using the Internet and related ICTs for Detroit’s Development