Skip to main content
All Posts By


DELL Blog Post Cover

Digital Equity Leadership Lab Case Study Published

By Digital Equity, Digital Justice, ResearchNo Comments
DELL Blog Post Cover

The CI Lab is excited to announce that the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation published our new case study of the Digital Equity Leadership Lab (DELL) today. The case study began last year with the following key research question: How might DELL serve as a community-based leadership training model to develop the next wave of digital equity leaders?

Through our interviews with DELL participants, outside experts who led DELL workshop sessions, and Deutsch Foundation staff, we discovered three key findings emerged from my qualitative analysis:

  1. bringing national policymakers and advocates together with community leaders is powerful and transformative;
  2. digital inequality is a social not a technological problem; and
  3. community leaders need access to a shared platform and each other to create change.

Following from these findings the following three recommendations were provided, particularly for other grassroots organizers, philanthropic organizations, policymakers, and other key stakeholders interested in promoting leadership in digital equity and justice initiatives nationwide.

  1. Capacity building and train-the-trainer models are important for community leadership development, but without access to policymakers and advocates on a national level, community leaders may lack a holistic view and understanding of the problems and community- developed solutions to these problems.
  2. Community leadership development programs to promote digital equity and justice must provide support systems for community leaders to come together through a shared infrastructure, including both platforms to share ideas and spaces to convene, to continue the work after the training is over.
  3. Digital inclusion work is vital to help those without access to computers and the internet. However, this work must be rooted in an understanding of how power, privilege, and oppression shape digital inequality, as well as how this knowledge can be used to address systemic barriers to social and racial justice.

Here are links to the Executive Summary and the Full Report.

The report was written by CI Lab Director Dr. Colin Rhinesmith with research support from Malana Krongelb and Jie Jiang. Many thanks to amalia deloney, Vice President and Director of Digital Equity at the Deutsch Foundation for inviting us to conduct the study.


New Issue of JoCI Published

By Broadband, Digital Equity, Digital Inclusion, Public Libraries, PublicationsNo Comments

JoCI Vol 17The new issue (Vol 17) of The Journal of Community Informatics is now online!

There are several excellent peer-reviewed articles, including the following:


  • A study of community informatics and resilience in India during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The role of public libraries in supporting digital inclusion in Sweden; and
  • A comparative study of digital equity plans in four U.S. cities.

There is also a paper in our “Notes from the Field” section on ethics in social design and a wonderful review in our “Book Reviews” section of Daniel Greene’s (2021) excellent, The Promise of Access: Technology, Inequality, and the Political Economy of Hope published by The MIT Press.



Six-City Digital Equity Action Research (DEAR) Fellowship Launched

By Digital Equity, Digital Justice, ResearchNo Comments

DEAR-Fellows-Slide-1024x575FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 8, 2021

Shaun Glaze (they/them)
Research Director

Colin Rhinesmith (he/him)
Benton Senior Faculty Research Fellow

Six-City Digital Equity Action Research (DEAR) Fellowship Launched
First-of-its-kind fellowship targeting digital inequities

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, Community Informatics Lab at Simmons University, and Black Brilliance Research Project (BBR) launched the six-city Digital Equity Action Research (DEAR) Fellowship. The DEAR Fellowship is a participatory action research program for young adults, ages 19-24, that helps examine how digital inclusion coalitions understand and address the root causes of digital inequities in their communities. The fellowship started in November and will conclude with a celebration and community event in mid-January.

As part of this initiative, one organization in each participating city—Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Long Beach, San Antonio, and Seattle—will take part in the fellowship and host one young adult to serve as their Benton DEAR Fellow. The fellows and their host organizations receive a stipend for their work on the project over a two-month period. The end goal is to increase the skills and capacity for communities to identify and address the root causes of digital inequities while learning from peers around the United States. The fellows will do this through learning new participatory action research skills, an approach that brings together advocacy and research methods to create change.

“We are proud to launch this effort in collaboration with two research institutions, Black Brilliance Research Project and the Community Informatics Lab at Simmons University,” said Adrianne Furniss (pronouns: she/her), Executive Director of the Benton Institute. “We will continue to invest in research that aids data-driven policy decisions. We also understand the importance of participatory and community-led work in striving for a more just world.”

The digital equity team of BBR is led by Research Director, Shaun Glaze (pronouns: they/them) and Chris Webb (pronouns: he/him). Glaze’s expertise is Participatory Action Research and they facilitate dozens of community research projects advancing racial justice, particularly for Black, Indigenous, disabled, trans, and queer people of color. Webb is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Business (STEM-B) department faculty member at Seattle Central College.

Glaze said, “Participatory Action Research (PAR) centers the wisdom, leadership, and expertise of those closest to the issues. Doing this work well means disrupting systems of oppression and creating spaces where communities can explore — and create — their own solutions. By listening to those closest to the issues, we’re not just listening to the problems created by digital injustice, we’re co-creating the solutions we need for Black and Brown people to thrive.”

Colin Rhinesmith (pronouns: he/him) is the Director of the Community Informatics Lab in the Simmons School of Library and Information Science and a Senior Faculty Research Fellow with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. Rhinesmith said, “The DEAR Fellows are working to share their vision of what digital justice looks like in each of their communities. I feel incredibly privileged to have this opportunity to learn from them and other members of our team while helping to facilitate our popular education workshops each week.”

Stephanie Martinez (pronouns: none) is a DEAR Fellow and co-designer of the DEAR fellowship. Martinez explained, “This fellowship means change for myself and the Black and Brown community. Not only does this opportunity enhance the knowledge of many young minds, but it also cultivates the gifts and talents of each participant, and creates liberating spaces where game-changing visions come into fruition. As a DEAR fellow and a team member of BBR, it has been an honor to learn, observe, and aid in this beautiful process as it comes to life each day. Youth leadership is essential to invest in because it gives us a chance to use our powerful voices, channel our focus on impeccable solutions, and break the barriers of effective communication, overall creating an unforgettable experience for this generation, and generations to come.”

Robert W. Deutsch Foundation is serving as a Baltimore partner on this project, supporting the fellowship funding for a DEAR Fellow at Village Learning Place. amalia deloney (pronouns: she/her), Vice President of the Foundation, said, “We’re longtime colleagues and friends of both the Benton Institute and Dr. Rhinesmith. When we learned about this innovative program, we immediately wanted to be supportive. We’re excited that Village Learning Place, whose work we respect, was chosen. We know that internet access is a precursor to social and economic inclusion and we’re happy that Baltimore, a city with 96,000 households, majority Black and Latinx, who lack internet, will benefit from the approach and thinking of DEAR.”

Fellowship partners include: Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, Black Brilliance Research Project, Community Informatics Lab at Simmons University, Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, East Cleveland Public Library, Long Beach Forward, San Antonio Digital Inclusion Alliance, and Village Learning Place.

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society: is a non-profit organization whose goal is to bring open, affordable, high-performance broadband to all people in the U.S. regardless of where they live or who they are. The Institute believes communication policy – rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity – has the power to deliver new opportunities, strengthen communities and ensure a thriving democracy.

Black Brilliance Research: BBR is a Black queer-led community research collaborative dedicated to changing the material conditions of the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. BBR’s goal is to explore and amplify community leadership and expertise. In 2020, BBR launched what is believed to be the world’s largest Black community participatory action research project, hiring over 100 community researchers from a wide variety of lived experiences with: racial injustice, incarceration, gender, education, immigration status, disability, language, age, religion, caregiving, national origin, healthcare, foster care, artistic expression, and professional research. Together with their local communities, BBR has been researching and implementing digital equity solutions through primary and secondary research and launching community networks in Washington State. BBR’s participatory action research and digital justice expertise offer DEAR fellows an opportunity to see themselves reflected in the leadership and direction of the work.

Community Informatics (CI) Lab at Simmons University: The CI Lab engages in digital inclusion research, practice, and policy to promote socially just and equitable communities. The lab is led by Dr. Colin Rhinesmith and is located in the School of Library and Information Science.

The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation: Founded 30 years ago, the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation (RWDF) invests in innovative people, programs, and ideas that improve the quality of life in Baltimore and beyond. The Foundation’s grantmaking focuses primarily in the areas of digital equity, community development, and arts and culture. RWDF believes the internet is a powerful catalyst for change; a job creator, an education provider, and a driver of innovation, creativity, and social change.


CI Lab and ATALM Receive IMLS Grant

By Broadband, Digital Equity, Digital Inclusion, ResearchNo Comments

IMLS LogoWe are incredibly honored and excited to announce that our CI Lab at Simmons University has received a two-year grant (award #LG-250043-OLS-21) from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to work with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums.

Here is the description that is available on the IMLS website:

“Simmons University, together with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums, will examine how a participatory community informatics approach, guided by Indigenous ways of knowing about technology and an affirmation of tribal sovereignty, can support the digital inclusion and broadband infrastructure needs and aspirations of tribal libraries. The research team will work with tribal libraries to co-design the following: an update to the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums’ 2014 report, ‘Digital Inclusion in Native Communities: The Role of Tribal Libraries’; a Digital Inclusion Lab ‘how-to’ guide for Tribal libraries; and a final report with findings from the research. The project also will gather broadband measurement data to inform federal information policies aimed at improving digital inclusion and broadband infrastructure in Tribal libraries.”



CIRN Virtual Conference Call 2021

By CFP, Conference, Digital Equity, Digital Inclusion, EventsNo Comments

CIRNCommunities, Technology, and This Moment 2021  

Virtual Conference | 8 – 12 November 2021
Call for Papers is now Open. Ends 30 June

Please see the website for more information on categories of papers refereeing process, conference committee, costs, conference publication and The Journal of Community Informatics, and how to submit an abstract.

The theme of the 2021 conference, “Communities, Technology, and This Moment” aims to bring together the rich knowledge, experience, and practice of Community Informatics, Community Archives, and Development Informatics with a focus on data justice, digital equity, and community informatics response to this moment in history. The 2021 CIRN conference will provide a virtual space to explore how researchers and practitioners ethically collect information, including what happens when community information is intentionally left uncollected, and how information systems can be designed in harmony with communities.

This year the CIRN conference will be online, and we propose a series of virtual events consisting of keynotes, presentations, and discussions. We hope that this virtual event covers a wide range of themes that reflect the richness and diversity of the fields of Community Informatics, Community Archives, and Development Informatics. #virtualCIRN. As an outcome, there will be conference proceedings, and selected papers will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Community Informatics in 2022. We also intend, as soon as it is possible to meet physically, to organise a follow up event in Prato Italy at the Monash University Centre.

We call for contributions for the following themes, that could be individual or multiple virtual sessions, depending on the response. Sessions will be offered at a range of times in support of participants from different time zones.


The conflict or tensions between the individual and collective use of ICT and the implications for design and security issues.

  • What are individual and community rights, responsibilities, and responses to the age of data breaches, manipulation, and social, health, environmental and other crises?
  • Who is left behind from the decision-making processes related to ICTs and information practices and uses?

Data justice and digital equity in the age of COVID.

  • What have the past two years (or more) shown us? How can communities have influence upon policy, design, and practice;
  • What will remain of privacy and work-life balance after the last two years of “smart” working? How can we ensure the rights of the digital workforce?
  • How does the pandemic affect different communities differently? Which existent social divisions might be intensified by measures such as lock-downs and social distancing? How can community informatics support people not only to survive but to live and thrive in a time full of uncertainties?

Action, agency and technology: Participatory design at this time.

The (new/emerging) relationship between face-to-face and action at a (mediated) distance.

  • Has the virtual replaced face-to-face and for what? Has much of our existence in fact become centered around virtual transactions? What has been strengthened? What has been weakened?
  • What happens when people are forced to interact through particular platforms, and the effects on unimpeded communication? What about surveillance?
  • The future of hybrid interactions where some are online, some in person. What are the advantages/disadvantages to hybrid setups, who is marginalized, who is enabled or disabled?

Religion, faith, belief.

  • What is the place of religion, faith and belief in the current digital area in the life of communities?
  • How do we deal with what can be  materially and socially damaging beliefs,  fake news, conspiracy theories and so on?

Environmental informatics.

  • Significant environmental actions and decisions are now made at different levels through generating environmental and ecological data and this continues in the COVID-19 era.
  • This is particularly important in the international development context, but in developing countries as well  What is the relationship with the community informatics agenda?

Can there be a community informatics response to this moment in history?

  • Is it possible to even think theoretically about this moment? Have all the previous paradigms fallen apart?
  • What has been the Community Informatics response to date?’

Sponsors: Monash University and Simmons University.



IN THE NEWS: Dr. Rhinesmith Appears on CBSN

By Broadband, Digital Equity, Digital InclusionNo Comments
CI Lab Director, Dr. Colin Rhinesmith joined CBS News political contributor and BluePrint Strategy founder Antjuan Seawright to talk with CBSN’s Lana Zak about the necessity of affordable internet access and President Biden’s infrastructure plan.

For more on the “Homework Gap,” I would recommend my colleague, John Horrigan’s excellent work in the recent Alliance for Excellent Education report, “Students of Color Caught in the Homework Gap” and Common Sense Media report, titled “The Homework Gap: Teacher Perspectives on Closing the Digital Divide.”

For more information about the necessity of affordable access to the internet, please see my 2019 article, titled “The Ability to Pay for Broadband” for the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society with my colleagues, Dr. Bianca Reisdorf and Madison Bishop. To learn more about the high cost of internet service in the U.S., check out the excellent “Cost of Connectivity” report from New America.

Finally, to learn more about the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program, see this excellent primer from Next Century Cities and additional information and resources from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

State of Illinois Seal

NEW REPORT: Universal Broadband in Illinois

By Broadband, Digital Equity, Digital Inclusion, Publications, ResearchNo Comments

In a new report by John Horrigan (Technology Policy Institute), Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University), and Colin Rhinesmith (Simmons University and CI Lab Director), the authors present findings from a study of broadband affordability for all residents in Illinois.

In the report, titled “Universal Broadband in Illinois: Studying the Costs of Providing Free and Affordable Service for All Residents” the executive summary states,

“This report presents findings from a study of technology and internet adoption in Illinois and includes cost estimates for providing free broadband access as well as the alternative goal of providing affordable broadband access to all residents in the State, including in areas with high poverty levels. This study is unique in that it not only examines what the State needs to do to promote universal broadband infrastructure; it also considers universal broadband affordability and adoption. In other words, this report recognizes that broadband infrastructure is only ‘one side of the connectivity coin, as Connect Illinois has identified in its strategic plan.”

A summary of the report with key findings can be found in this blog post published by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.


Illinois Broadband Affordability Report
17th CIRN Proceedings

New Paper Published in CIRN Conference Proceedings

By Conference, Publications, Research, UncategorizedNo Comments

17th CIRN ProceedingsCI Lab Director, Dr. Colin Rhinesmith, Jo Dutilloy, and Susan Kennedy have a new paper in the 17th Community Informatics Research Network Conference proceedings, which are now available on the Monash University website. The Conference Proceedings were co-edited by Larry Stillman and Misita Anwar (Monash University) along with Colin and Vanessa Rhinesmith.

The paper, titled “Co-Designing an Open Source Broadband Measurement System with Public Libraries” was co-authored with several colleagues involved in the  IMLS grant funded research project, “Measuring Library Broadband Networks” grant (award #LG-71-18-0110-18).

Here is the abstract:

This paper presents findings from a participatory design workshop with public librarians and information technology practitioners to gain their insights on the development of an open source broadband measurement system for public libraries across the United States. Participatory design has been a key strategy in community informatics to engage users in the design, implementation, and evaluation of information and community technology (ICT). This engagement assumes that those most impacted by ICTs should be involved in making decisions about how these technologies are developed. While findings from previous studies have shown the value of using participatory design in community informatics projects, fewer studies have investigated how such design processes might be used to develop open-source technology systems with public libraries. Our study seeks to address this gap in the literature by focusing heavily on the participatory design elements in our data collection and analysis. Findings from our qualitative analysis of the workshop data reveal that public libraries want more knowledge of their broadband networks to better communicate with their patrons, respond to their communities’ digital needs, and justify the importance of robust internet connectivity to their funders. We believe these findings show the value of using participatory design in community informatics with public libraries, as well as the benefits of sharing co-design techniques with researchers and practitioners in the field.”

The full text of the paper is available for download here.

New Co-Edited Special Issue in Social Inclusion

By Digital Equity, Digital Inclusion, Journals, Publications, ResearchNo Comments

The open access journal, Social Inclusion published a new special issue, titled “Digital Inclusion Across the Globe: What Is Being Done to Tackle Digital Inequities?” The issue was co-edited by Dr. Bianca Reisdorf (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) and Community Informatics Lab Director, Dr. Colin Rhinesmith.

As the abstract explains,

“There is a large body of research that has examined digital inequities, inequalities, and divides—i.e., those countries, communities, and individuals digitally left behind or disadvantaged. Whereas we know quite a lot about what is lacking and for whom, there is less focus on what works to alleviate these inequalities and divides in a variety of cultural contexts. This thematic issue brings together scholarship on digital inclusion initiatives and research from over 20 countries and in the context of numerous aspects, including different types of initiatives as well as different types of target audiences for these initiatives. Each article provides unique insights into what does and does not work in various communities, making recommendations on what could be done to improve the examined initiatives. We hope that the breadth and depth of articles presented here will be useful not just for academic audiences seeking to broaden their understanding of digital inclusion and ‘what can be done’ rather than focusing on ‘what is amiss,’ but also for policymakers and digital inclusion initiatives who are eager to expand and advance their digital inclusion work within their communities.”

The entire issue is open access and available for free on the Social Inclusion website.

Close Menu

Join our newsletter!