We envision a world in which individuals have equitable access to information regardless of socioeconomic status.
Unity Foundation seeks to apply the ideals of altruism, benevolence, and social consciousness to the world of software tools and systems that organizations use to collect, organize, and share data. Our belief is that more equitable access to information and services, especially for those in underserved communities, will uplift and empower all members of our community.
Unity believes that “all of us” is better than any one of us. We desire very simply to serve our community through partnering with other members of our community who also want to uplift and empower everyone. If you are aligned with our mission we want to partner with you. Together, we can ideate, prioritize, and build new or leverage existing technology and tools needed to address the digital divide in our region. We’re seeking partners who are also aligned with and guided by our values of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA).
Unity is building a distributed ecosystem that empowers organizations to securely share data with other organizations for the benefit of underserved populations. Organizations collaborate as peers using common infrastructure for communication and security. Access to data is determined by mutual agreement. Message formats and semantics are determined by the community instead of dictated by a central authority. This ecosystem reflects our values of Inclusion (any organization can participate), Diversity (a broad spectrum of organizations enriches the ecosystem and creates new opportunities), Equity (all participating organization have the same opportunities to produce and consume data and innovate), and Action (organizations must take responsibility for providing access to their data).
Opening Doors with Open Systems
Technology has the power to build bridges between community members and the organizations that support them. Open, interconnected systems equip service providers, policymakers, researchers, and community-based organizations with the critical information they need to provide the right level(s) of assistance in real-time.
Solutions built with open standards, open source technology, and open licensing …
- Create safe and secure transactions
- Build and implement non-proprietary technological standards
- Support the development of collaborative and transparent software
- Are used by private enterprises, public organizations, and government agencies
Unity has contributed open source digital assets and partnered with subject matter experts and leaders in our community to launch some truly impactful projects that have already demonstrated value. And we’re just getting started.
Projects at a Glance
Regional Data Alliance
Unity Foundation is partnering with the Regional Data Alliance (RDA) as part of the Missouri Aging Services Collaborative team using machine learning technology to translate and match terms used in nationally-recognized social risk screening tools with terms used by service providers. This capability will be used to help manage the complexity of merging data sources and simplifying the location of relevant community services. To read more about the inception of this project, click here.
SLU Open Source Center
Unity Foundation has been a proud partner with Saint Louis University in leveraging an open source digital asset - the Micronaut framework - to help establish and support a software development project within SLU’s Open Source Software Center, which was made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Center provides students real world experience building and supporting an open source library for building IoT (Internet of Things) applications using open source software. This is valuable experience that they will carry with them into their professional careers.
Unity’s engineers have spent the last two years designing and building a CommUNITY infrastructure, an ecosystem which is a network of integration software and related tools that can aggregate critical information and data across disconnected systems. One of these tools, called the DDS Permissions Manager, allows owners of stored data to securely manage how it is shared and viewed when members of the workforce development stakeholder community request access.
Digital Provider Directory
Unity’s engineers are developing a Digital Provider Directory application, which leverages CommUNITY and other open source software to enable greater collaboration among workforce development organizations in the St Louis region. For more information on how you can start using this technology to positively impact workforce development in our region, please contact us.
About Us: Visionaries With a Purpose
Unity Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2020 by Dr. Ebrahim Moshiri, an accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist who has been a champion for open standards-based technologies for close to 40 years.
Unity’s core engineering team has decades of collective experience building state-of-the-art solutions for clients around the world. Their shared values and passion for projects that uplift and empower those in need have brought them together to turn Unity’s vision into reality.
Rhonda Key, Ph.D.
Shawn Khojasteh, Ph.D.
Ebrahim Moshiri, Ph.D.
Open Source Software (OSS) Foundations Officially Join Unity Foundation
Unity Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of three Open Source Software (OSS) Foundations as official member organizations of the Unity team. Established in 2020 as a non-profit, community-based organization, Unity Foundation set out on a journey to leverage open source software tools to provide more inherently equitable access to the information and services that support the needs of the greater St. Louis area community, with a focus on the underserved.
Dr. Ebrahim Moshiri, founder of St. Louis-based technology company, Object Computing, Inc. (OCI), envisioned a radically new way of serving the community by extending all of the openly available tools and systems that OCI had been building, supporting, and advancing for the last three decades. Unity Foundation was organized to drive the engineering of a new kind of infrastructure and data sharing ecosystem that, through collaborations and partnerships with other St. Louis based organizations, can address the Digital Divide in our region. In essence, Unity seeks to apply the ideals of altruism, benevolence, and social consciousness to the world of software tools and systems that organizations use to collect, organize, and share data.
As a commitment to reusable and interoperable technologies to facilitate greater access and capability for all users, OCI made significant investments in establishing three OSS product foundations - Grails Foundation, Micronaut Foundation, and OpenDDS Foundation. These non-profit entities are solely focused on ensuring the continuity and sustainability of the OSS products. Today, thousands of software engineers, researchers, and end users around the globe use and contribute to these tools, and organizations including Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, and Google leverage these trusted tools and platforms. The Micronaut Foundation’s Advisory Board in particular includes representatives from these well-known technology leaders.
Moving the OSS Foundations under Unity provides a very meaningful integration and alliance between Unity and those open source communities. Each of the Foundations will have the opportunity to work more closely with Unity in building an open source technology infrastructure and ecosystem that serves our underserved communities. Unity will continue its commitment to serve as an OSS aggregator, and will scale community participation in helping define, advance, and contribute to the ongoing success and sustainability of the open source products.
In January 2023, Object Computing and Unity Foundation together pledged an additional $2M for the ongoing benefit and advancement of the OpenDDS Project, the Micronaut framework, and the Grails framework, through their respective non-profit Foundations. While Unity is now the proud steward of these Foundations, they are equally committed to finding new ways to collaborate with community partners who, like them, deeply desire to build and contribute to a new CommUNITY infrastructure - one that will be engineered for equity, accessibility, enrichment, and compassion for those who need it most.
Unity Supports Saint Louis University’s Open Source Software Center
Unity Foundation has been a proud partner with Saint Louis University in helping establish SLU’s Open Source Software Center, which was made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The center provides an incubation lab environment that introduces students to open source software and a culture of sharing that is inherently more equitable. Giving students an opportunity to understand this culture and operate within it is not only a unique opportunity for SLU computer science students, it can also extend out in ways that can uplift and benefit individuals, organizations, and communities.
Undergraduate computer science students enrolled in project-based courses engage with the Center as part of their course curriculum, working under the mentorship of graduate students to implement various designs and test software using industry standard practices.
The project Unity is supporting in the lab provides students real world experience building and supporting an open source library for building IoT (Internet of Things) applications using open source software. The experience is an immersive one including focus not only on software development but many other aspects of open source including community engagement, software governance, collaborating with a distributed team, and other skills which are crucial to successful open source projects and communities.
What’s happening at the Open Source Software Center at SLU can significantly impact a much needed shift - from a workforce development perspective - to normalizing open source software development and addressing a deficit in opportunities to learn, practice, and demonstrate those engineering capabilities. As students use and understand the value of open source software, they gain valuable knowledge and experience building IoT (Internet of Things) applications that they carry with them into their professional careers.
Unity Foundation, a St. Louis based 501(c)(3) organization, is committed to leveraging open source software tools to provide more equitable access to the information and services that support the needs of the greater St. Louis area community, with a focus on the underserved. With three open source foundations as official member organizations of the Unity team, they are able to provide the platform, tools, and advisory services that the Center needs to thrive and sustain its purpose.
Bridging the Digital Divide
April 27, 2023
Jane is a single mother struggling to make ends meet. She is unemployed and barely scraping by to provide for her child. She sought assistance from a local nonprofit focused on job training and placement, but her more urgent needs in the areas of housing and childcare support remained unaddressed and prevented her from focusing on training for her future…and the future of her child. Other non-profits could help her with these more urgent needs, but it remains up to Jane to coordinate them all.
Jane's all too common situation illustrated in a Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) article highlights a complex problem for many that exists due to digital divides. In a world where nonprofits operate in silos, Jane's story is a familiar one. But let's imagine an alternate reality, one where nonprofits and institutions are seamlessly connected through technology and shared resources, forming a cohesive network that serves the needs of the entire community.
Access to technology and the internet has become a fundamental aspect of modern life, allowing us to communicate, access information, and participate in society. However, not everyone has equal access to these resources. In some communities, individuals and families lack the resources
Encompassing more than just the absence of hardware and internet connectivity but also the unavailability of software and infrastructure tools that individuals and community organizations need, the digital divide creates barriers for disadvantaged communities, limiting access to education, healthcare, job opportunities, and other critical resources. This contributes to a cycle of poverty and inequality that is difficult to break.
Open source software (OSS) is a valuable tool for bridging the digital divide in disadvantaged communities. One of the most significant advantages of open source technology is that it can be customized to meet the specific needs of disadvantaged communities. This means that non-profit organizations and community groups can use open source technology to customize and address challenges like Jane faces by putting her back on track to providing for her family and visualizing a brighter future for herself and her child.
Open source software can play a role in bridging the digital divide by:
The Unity Foundation is a non-profit organization that is using open source technology to bridge the digital divide in disadvantaged communities. The Foundation develops and aggregates several open source tools and systems that can be used to develop custom software solutions to address the specific needs of different communities. By providing open and transparent access to these tools and resources, the Unity Foundation is working with a network of community partners to create more equitable access to technology and the internet.
To learn more about how you can get involved with open source software or how to support this movement, contact the Unity Foundation and learn how Unity and partner organizations are leveraging the power of open source software to bridge the digital divide. Let's work together to create a more connected and inclusive world.