Austin Joins Mozilla’s Growing ‘Hive’ of Gigabit Cities

Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas


Connecting state and local government leaders

Kansas City, Missouri, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, have already seen municipal services and Web literacy benefit from the Gigabit Community Fund’s grants.

The Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund named Austin, Texas, its third “hive city” at the Gigabit City Summit in Kansas City, Missouri.

Launched in 2014, the fund has backed 26 projects in Kansas City and Chattanooga, Tennessee, to date—from first responder virtual reality tools to singing robots.

Now Mozilla, the nonprofit tech company best known for its Firefox browser, will offer $150,000 in grants to Austin technologies leveraging the local Google Fiber network and teach Web literacy in institutions like museums and libraries starting in August.

“Mozilla is all about helping protect the Web as an open, public resource that’s built by everyone,” Program Director Lindsey Frost told Route Fifty in an interview.

The fund was drawn to the city’s strong developer community with groups like Open Austin, she said, as well as the increasing collaboration among informal education spaces to empower Web users. Austin’s Digital Inclusion Strategy, promoting citywide accessibility to skills and tech, sweetened the pot.

An on-the-ground lead will be hired before launch, and the first grant application deadline is Oct. 18. Small grants, no larger than $30,000, will fund apps and curricula leveraging high-speed networks for learning—like 4K streaming in classrooms.

“When you couple lightning-fast Internet with innovative projects in the realms of education and workforce development, amazing things can happen,” Mark Surman, Mozilla’s executive director, said in the announcement.

In Chattanooga, the fund supported a local high school’s use of microcontrollers to establish a wireless water quality-monitoring system that streams data in real time on the nearby watershed. Both that city and Kansas City will receive $134,000 in new gigabit funding to support data and Internet of Things projects.

The number of people showing up to the table to address Austin’s education problems is impressive, Frost said.

Hive Austin will become one of 14 in a global network spanning four continents, a feedback link, with the additions of a fourth and fifth city planned for 2017—the application process opening in late 2016.

The National Science Foundation and U.S. Ignite also partner on Mozilla’s fund, which will accept grant applications from outside Austin, so long as they’re piloted locally.

“We want to be complementary to the work that’s already going on, on the ground,” Frost said. “We don’t need to come in and be the sole connector and convener in town.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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