The idea behind thepibay.com came to be on June 25th 2021 when the office of Congressman Danny Davis held a Technology Advisory Committee conference call for various technologists & community stakeholders in the Illinois 7th Congressional District. The topic was GSA’s Computers for Learning program, which is a fantastic resource for eligible participants to receive gently used computers. While the call went very well, it was clear that quite a few of the community stakeholders did not meet GSA’s eligibility requirements, and the technologists on the call didn’t have good answers about similar programs for ineligible organizations. Even if a similar “computers for learning” program existed, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain & troubleshoot a variety of used computers.

One of the technologists on the call thought “Well, maybe instead of computers for learning, there could be some type of Raspberry Pis for learning group that could help out these ineligible community orgs. They’re cheap, have tons of troubleshooting videos on YouTube, and the uniform hardware makes group projects much easier. Maybe we can start doing that on a Discord or something…”

The following weekend of July 4th 2021 resulted in over 100 people shot and 18 dead in Chicago, making national headlines and making many Chicagoans ponder how this violence crisis could get resolved. What, if anything, could an information technology worker contribute to solving the violence problem? How can we get more economic opportunities in the most violence-stricken neighborhoods despite the darn pandemic? One of the largest datacenters in the country is an easy public transit ride away from these disadvantaged communities; why can’t more of those cyberinfrastructure jobs get filled by those living nearby instead of those commuting in from far away affluent suburbs?

There is never going to be a one-size-fits-all answer to the questions in the above paragraph. But a few of the participants on that Technology Advisory Committee conference call began chatting more about ways this “digital divide” could be mended. One of the recurring themes of these conversations was trying to find ways of getting at-risk youth & untapped technology workforce talent ages 18-81 from these underserved areas interested in various technology career paths. Especially in the IT career fields that don’t require programming skills.

While it would certainly be great if everyone could learn a programming language before getting too deep into technology careers, the reality is learning to code isn’t in the cards for many people as a beginner. Whether it’s through a not-so-educational video game emulator on RetroPie or one of the fantastic educational curriculum ideas over at the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s website, there needs to be individuals exposing members of overlooked communities to this wonderful world of Raspberry Pi projects. At a price tag of under $50 plus some peripherals that can be easily found secondhand, the Raspberry Pi platform is arguably the perfect tool to get anyone interested in technology.

This is where The Pi Bay comes in: we want to link up technologists in decently-paying career paths with individuals & organizations located in the often overlooked areas where much of Chicago’s gun violence occurs. We’re not looking to re-invent the wheel or start another nonprofit; we simply want to connect people that already know quite a bit about technology (particularly with Raspberry Pis) with nonprofits that already do quite a bit for these underserved areas. Even if there’s only one person that benefits from this effort on our Discord server, it’s an effort worth pursuing. All it takes is one fun Raspberry Pi project to get someone interested in a technology career, and if that person applies to a City Colleges of Chicago program as a result, we can make a big economic impact where Chicago needs it the most.

Hopefully we’ll have some success stories to share about those who otherwise never would have considered a technology career path someday. But we’ll never get there without talented technologists volunteering their skills and the dedicated community organizers & non-profits getting the word out about how much fun Raspberry Pi projects can be. So please join the conversation in Discord today and let’s make better communities, one Pi at a time!

Thepibay.com was purchased on July 8th 2021 in the wake of that terribly violent weekend in Chicago, with the crazy notion that maybe if there’s better paths to technology opportunities, it eventually might lead to more prosperity & less crime citywide. We have no affiliation with thepiratebay.org and might change the name if this idea really takes off. If the idea goes nowhere, that’s fine too, we’ll stop renewing the domain name and pass the torch off to someone more organized. The picture of the Raspberry Pi 4 board ontop of all pages is actually the web server for this site, which is a project you can do yourself following the instructions at this link. Thanks for reading our story and hope to see you on the Discord!