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

NEW REPORT: Growing Healthy Digital Equity Ecosystems

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

We are excited to announce the publication of our new Benton Institute for Broadband & Society report, Growing Healthy Digital Equity Ecosystems During COVID-19 and Beyond. This report presents findings from a survey of individuals representing a diverse group of organizations across the United States that have self-identified as being part of either a formal, informal, or emerging digital inclusion coalition. The purpose of our study was to better understand the role these coalitions have played in supporting what we are calling “digital equity ecosystems” in their communities during the challenges of the pandemic.

We define “digital equity ecosystems” as the interactions between individuals, populations, and their larger socio-technical environments that all play a role in shaping the digital inclusion work in local communities to promote more equitable access to technology and social and racial justice.

We believe the next administration, led by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, can benefit from understanding the community-based tactics, particularly in poor communities and communities of color, that have emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In our new report, we show how digital inclusion coalitions have leveraged their communities’ digital equity ecosystems to address their communities’ broadband-related needs while facing significant barriers due to limited personnel, technological, and financial support for digital equity.

You can find the report and the related Benton Digital Beat article here.

Here is a summary of our main findings:

Digital inclusion coalitions established before the pandemic have responded to COVID-19 by focusing their efforts on information and resource sharing, networking, data collection, raising awareness about digital inequality, and developing new tactics to promote digital equity. These coalitions have worked to coordinate investments and develop new funding opportunities to support their existing work such as providing access to computers, low-cost internet service, and Wi-Fi hotspots for more vulnerable members of their communities. In our survey, 29% of respondents indicated that they were part of digital equity coalitions that formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These new and emerging coalitions have organized others in their communities, focusing on ways to provide access to the internet, digital devices, and digital literacy training for low-income individuals and families. Respondents described several factors that made it possible to respond in these ways, including: their existing relationships and collaborations, awareness of existing policy constraints, capacity and knowledge about how to best engage with key stakeholders (both inside and outside local government), as well as years of existing digital inclusion experience. Others cite new funding opportunities as key support for their response, with 52% of respondents indicating that their organization or community used CARES Act funding for digital inclusion activities.

The pandemic has introduced several new challenges for digital inclusion coalitions and has magnified a number of existing challenges. These challenges include obstacles to getting sufficient buy-in from broadband internet service providers to support their efforts, as well as barriers to working with local elected officials to make free and/or low-cost internet access a policy priority. Some coalitions cite the lack of infrastructure in rural areas, as well as insufficient resources, staff time, and funding to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, respondents described social distancing rules as a challenge when many of their digital inclusion activities rely on in-person instruction and devices. Several respondents highlighted the challenge of balancing responses to the urgent, short-term needs that the pandemic presents—such as hotspot and device distribution for K-12 digital learning—with long-term, sustained investment in broadband access, adoption, and literacy.

Digital inclusion coalitions are finding ways to creatively solve problems to address their communities’ digital needs. These solutions include developing new and expanded partnerships, including partnering with community members; piloting new initiatives; collaboratively seeking new sources of funding; pivoting to online training in digital skills training and virtual tech help; sharing information and resources with their communities; and offering socially distanced, masked, and outdoor events. In addition, there are more stakeholders interested in digital inclusion initiatives than ever before, especially K-12 schools, health care providers, and local nonprofits. Two of our respondents indicated the importance of making connections between the COVID-19 pandemic, digital inequality, and racial injustice when developing digital equity solutions. Respondents indicated that several new tactics will continue even when the health crisis ends, including: virtual learning services; development of digital equity plans, expanding broadband infrastructure, raising awareness of digital equity work, prioritizing device accessibility and training in digital literacy, and promoting data-collection efforts.

Cities, counties, states, and national organizations have also played key roles in supporting local digital equity ecosystems. Cities, counties, and states have played significant roles in addressing digital inequality during the pandemic, such as making funds available for internet and device access, including free community Wi-Fi access points and free or discounted in-home internet access. Cities and counties have also worked with their public libraries to expand Wi-Fi hotspot availability. Statewide and multi-state coalitions have focused their efforts on the following: providing maps of free internet locations, compiling lists of low-cost internet deals, providing recommendations for COVID-19 task forces, creating online-resource webpages, informing people about digital equity, offering information on funding opportunities and state actions, and collaborating to share knowledge and resources. National nonprofits have worked to address digital inequality in communities across the United States through their work with local digital inclusion coalitions to promote literacy training in digital literacy, as well as device refurbishing and reuse.

Community Informatics Virtual Webinar Series

By Conference, Events, ResearchNo Comments

The Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN), Monash University, and the Community Informatics Lab at Simmons University are thrilled to announce the Community Informatics Virtual Webinar Series, which is a multi-part live webinar series held between October 19th – November 16th, 2020.

The CI Virtual Webinar Series will invite conversations that explore the history, impact, and present day importance of the fields of Community Informatics, Community Archives, Development Informatics, and related fields. This series will cover a wide range of themes that reflect the richness and diversity of these fields. You can register for the series on the Seminar web page. A snapshot schedule of the seminars are as follows:

  • October 19th: The Informatics of Mutual Aid
  • October 26th: ICT4D: Beyond ICT
  • November 2nd: Indigenous Archives Collective
  • November 9th: Globalization, Power, and Community Empowerment
  • November 16th: Memorialization, Digital Media, and the State

The webinar series will take the place of the CIRN 2020 annual conference, which has been cancelled due to the novel coronavirus. We are excited for the 2021 conference in Prato, Italy, which will surround the theme of “Participatory Approaches to Community Archives, Data, and Design.” You can find out more about the 2021 conference here. In the meantime, the 2020 CI Virtual Webinar series offers a new and exciting opportunity to stay engaged with the global CI community while we are practicing social distancing.

Join our newsletter and follow the @JournalofCI and @CommInfoLab on Twitter for updates on the CI Virtual Webinar Series and other CI related news.

Illinois Developing Broadband Leadership Series

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

On June 3rd, CI Lab Director Dr. Colin Rhinesmith presented at the fourth part of the University of Illinois Extension Developing Broadband Leadership Webinar Series, which focused on broadband adoption, affordability, and inclusion. This series was co-sponsored by the University of Illinois extension, the Illinois Office of Broadband, and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. 

Alongside special guest Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton and speakers Gigi Sohn (Georgetown Law Institute for Technology, Law and Policy), Debbie Alfredson (Deputy Director, Winnebago County Housing Authority), Karin Norington-Reaves (Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership), and Casey Sorenson (PCs for People), Dr. Rhinesmith presented on his 2016 Benton Foundation report, “Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives.”

As Dr. Rhinesmith highlighted the research in the report intended to provide evidence to help inform initiatives such as the FCC’s Lifeline Universal Service program, which at the time was being reformed to help provide a broadband subsidy to low-income consumers. Research questions guiding the study included:

What are the key characteristics of low-cost Internet and digital literacy training programs for vulnerable populations?

What indicators do broadband adoption programs use to measure the success of their programs?

After visiting eight community-based organizations across the country, Dr. Rhinesmith identified a four-part digital inclusion strategy common to these organizations. Part of this strategy includes making low-cost computers available in addition to low-cost broadband and digital literacy training. The presentation concludes with the reminder:

The full webinar has been recorded, and you can view Dr. Rhinesmith’s slides here.

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.

Broadband Connectivity in Montana’s Public Libraries

By Broadband, Public Libraries, Publications, ResearchNo Comments

Benton Institute for Broadband & SocietyOur research team recently collaborated with the Montana State Library to produce a new report, titled “The State of Broadband Connectivity and Related IT Infrastructure in Montana’s Public Libraries.” The report can be found on the Montana State Library’s publications page on their website. In the paper, we present findings from our analysis of data gathered by the Montana State Library in 2019 using Internet2’s Toward Gigabit Libraries Toolkit with public libraries across the state.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society just published a new blog post, titled “While More Americans Rely on Parking Lot Wi-Fi, Many Public Libraries Do Not Have Adequate Broadband,” in which we provide a summary of the major findings from our analysis of the Montana public libraries data.

It was an honor for us to work with the Montana State Library and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society to produce and share the findings from our analysis. The Montana State Library also just produced this amazing visualization of the data gathered from the Toward Gigabit Libraries Toolkit.

New JoCI Editor-In-Chief

By Conference, Journals, Publications, ResearchNo Comments

I am honored and excited to announce that beginning March 1, 2020 I will be beginning my new role as Editor-In-Chief of The Journal of Community Informatics taking over for Eduardo Villanueva. The announcement was first made last November at the annual Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN) conference at the Monash Centre in Prato, Italy. I am currently working with Eduardo to begin the transfer of the journal’s responsibilities over this coming month. I hope to open the journal back up for submissions beginning in March 2020. Stay tuned for updates here at the new website for the Community Informatics Lab @ SLIS.

New Research to Investigate Broadband Measurement in Libraries

By ResearchNo Comments

Dr. Rhinesmith recently received an IMLS National Leadership Grant (#LG-71-18-0110-18) with New America’s Open Technology Institute and Internet2 to examine how advanced broadband measurement capabilities can support the infrastructure and services needed to respond to the digital demands of public library users across the U.S.

Here’s the description of the project from the IMLS website:

“Simmons College, along with New America’s Open Technology Institute, and Internet2, will examine how advanced broadband measurement capabilities can support the infrastructure and services needed to respond to the digital demands of public library users across the U.S. The project will gather quantitative and qualitative data from public libraries across the country to 1) understand the broadband speeds and quality of service that public libraries receive; 2) assess how well broadband service and infrastructure are supporting their communities’ digital needs; 3) understand broadband network usage and capacity; and 4) increase their knowledge of networked services and connectivity needs. The project deliverables include an open source and replicable broadband measurement platform, training manual to help public librarians use that platform, and a final report on the project.”

Visit the IMLS website to download our program materials to learn more about the project.

 

City of Boston Digital Equity Fund

By Digital EquityNo Comments

The City of Boston just announced their new Digital Equity Fund. This initiative will be overseen by the Mayor’s Department of Innovation & Technology. Colin Rhinesmith was invited to join the advisory board along with the following people: Alessandra Brown, Director, Roxbury Innovation Center; Turahn Dorsey, Chief of Education, City of Boston: Trinh Nguyen, Director of Workforce Development, City of Boston; and Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Here is a snippet from today’s press release:

“Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the creation of a $35,000 Digital Equity Fund, which will support the City’s goal of ensuring all residents have equal access to digital services. The Digital Equity Fund will provide support to community-based organizations that help Boston residents fully connect and participate in today’s media and information landscape. ‘A more connected Boston is a more equitable City, a more innovative City and a more prosperous City,’ said Mayor Walsh. ‘This grant program will allow more residents to connect digitally, and will encourage residents to grow their digital skills while increasing access to information.’

The Digital Equity Fund will explore ways to build individual and community capacity to:

  • Use the Internet, digital skills, and digital tools to pursue professional, educational, and civic endeavors;
  • Engage with the Internet safely and securely;
  • Develop needs-responsive, community driven digital skills building opportunities;
  • Increase broadband adoption among the roughly 1 in 5 Bostonians who do not subscribe to this service in the home.

In 2017, Boston will award one grant of $35,000 or up to two grants up to $17,500 each to nonprofit organizations that promote digital equity. By providing seed funding, the City hopes to identify promising strategies that can attract outside funding and further create a City where everyone has the tools and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.”

Read the full press release here.

Co-Edited JoCI Special Issue Published

By Conference, Journals, PublicationsNo Comments

The new issue of The Journal of Community Informatics was published this past week. I had the opportunity to co-edit the special issue with David Nemer (University of Kentucky) and Christiana Urbano (Simmons). The issue features selections from the 2016 Community Informatics Research Network Conference in Prato, Italy.

Here’s an excerpt from our introduction to the special issue:

The conference theme was “Engaging with Participation, Activism, and Technologies.” The papers in this issue highlight the conference’s overarching theme, which focused on advancing theory and practice in the development of Participatory Action Research (PAR) with a particular focus on helping to ensure that marginalized groups have a strong voice in their communities in the face of structural and cultural challenges. In doing so, the conference sought to help promote “a stronger focus on more meaningful and equal partnerships with community, civil society, and NGO organisations around the world.”

 

TPRC Paper Selected for Capitol Hill Briefing

By Conference, Digital Inclusion, ResearchNo Comments

I am honored and excited to announce that my paper with Dr. Bianca Reisdorf, Assistant Professor in Media and Information and Quello Center Assistant Director at Michigan State University, has been selected as one of four papers to be presented at a special Telecom Policy Congressional Briefing as part of this year’s Telecommunications Policy Research Conference.

Here’s a snippet of the announcement via the Quello Center’s website:

Dr. Reisdorf will present findings from her work with Dr. Colin Rhinesmith, who is an Assistant Professor at Simmons College, and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. In their paper, titled Race and Digital Inequality: Policy Implications, they combined quantitative data analyses using Pew data, American Community Survey data, and FCC Form 477 data with qualitative data from a Benton Foundation study on digital inclusion initiatives in several cities across the US. The combination of these rich data sources brought forward deeper insights into what is keeping some of the economically hardest-hit communities offline and how policy can help increase digital equity. For example, quantitative analyses of data on Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, KS,emphasized existing digital inequalities along factors such as race, income, and education, and showed that fewer fixed broadband providers offer their services in poor urban neighborhoods. The qualitative case study of digital inclusion initiatives across these neighborhoods, however, showed that local, well-designed digital equity programs have a positive impact in mitigating these inequalities. While federal policies can help to provide more infrastructure and service to hard-hit neighborhoods through programs such as Lifeline, local organizations and policymakers can provide context-specific on-the-ground support that builds on the resources and assets already available in the communities to allow meaningful broadband adoption.

Visit the TPRC website to learn more about this year’s conference in Washington, D.C.

 

New Benton Foundation Report

By Digital Inclusion, Evaluation, ResearchNo Comments

I’m excited to announce the release of a new report co-authored with Angela Siefer, Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and published by the Benton Foundation, which highlights and seeks to address the core outcomes-based evaluation needs of the digital inclusion field. Here is an excerpt from today’s report release available at Benton.org:

In recent years, government agencies, private foundations, and community-based organizations have increasingly sought to understand how programs that promote digital inclusion lead to social and economic outcomes for individuals, programs, and communities. This push to measure outcomes has been driven, in part, by a larger trend to ensure that dollars are being used efficiently to improve lives rather than simply to deliver services. A new report, published by Benton Foundation, describes the challenges facing community-based organizations and other key stakeholders in using outcomes-based evaluation to measure the success of their digital inclusion programs and offers recommendations toward addressing these shared barriers.

Download the full report here.

New Paper in The Journal of Community Informatics

By UncategorizedNo Comments

Martin Wolske (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and I have a new paper in The Journal of Community Informatics. The paper is called “Critical Questions for Community Informatics in Practice from an Ethical Perspective.”

Here’s a brief description from the paper:

Collaboratively developed through three years of conference workshops, this set of guiding critical questions seeks to further promote ethical practice in CI…These guiding critical questions affirm the need to state social justice principles more explicitly in community informatics. Unequal power relations will always be a factor and CI practice can benefit from guidelines to ensure these relationships are more equitable.

Many people from around the world contributed to the development of this framework over three years of Community Informatics Research Network conferences in Prato, Italy. I believe the framework is quite relevant and applicable beyond the scope of this topic. It was a real honor to work with Martin Wolske and many other colleagues on this project. I hope it will be useful and also elaborated upon.

New Article in Information, Communication & Society

By Journals, ResearchNo Comments

ICSDr. Miriam Sweeney (School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama) and I have a new paper published in Information, Communication & Society. In the article, titled “Creating Caring Institutions for Community Informatics,” we develop a feminist ethics of care framework for researchers and practitioners in the field of community informatics.

Here is the abstract:

This paper explores the potential affordances of applying a feminist ethics of care approach to community informatics practices in public internet access facilities. As feminist technology scholars have long observed, technology and technoculture are strongly encoded as masculine, privileging traits such as scientific knowledge, rationality, objectivity, and distance. These characteristics are expressed in traditional infomediary practices in a variety of ways, including notions of expertise, ways of conceptualizing technology, emphasis on skills attainment, and deficit-based models of user behavior. In contrast, ethics of care emphasizes the importance of relational and situated knowledge, pluralistic voices and experiences, and relationships bound by mutual interdependence. Traditionally, caring has been feminized and thus necessarily excluded from technoculture and relegated to invisible and unpaid labor. Caring and associated affective labor practices remain an under-examined subject in infomediary practices. Public libraries and community technology centers are logical places to explore for care work, given that they share many characteristics of the spaces where care work has historically been performed. We argue that an ethics of care framework has several possible affordances for infomediary practices in these institutions, including highlighting the gendered power dynamics that define and shape existing practices; distributing care work and making existing care work visible; and envisioning a more holistic and ethical approach to engaging diverse publics. We translate Tronto’s seven warning signs for ‘bad care’ in institutions into seven positive guidelines for providing ‘good care’ in public internet access facilities, then contextualize these for community informatics institutions and practices.

Ready To Stand Out?


Buy Salient Now  Reach Out To Us

Join our newsletter!

css.php