Over the past year, my team and I at the Digital Equity Research Center at METRO co-led a participatory action research project with Tech Goes Home (TGH). The purpose of the study was to develop a theory of change for TGH, as well as an analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing community-based organizations in conducting equity-focused program evaluations as part of their their digital equity work.
We hope the findings from our study will help to inform state and federal policymakers as the NTIA’s Internet for All grant funding rolls out over the next five years.
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society published this summary that I co-wrote with Sangha Kang-Le (TGH) and Malana Krongelb (DERC). The article includes the following recommendations based on the findings from our participatory action research project.
For digital equity organizations, key recommendations include:
- Allocating time, money, and intentional effort to capture insights and expertise from community members;
- Engaging evaluation participants in their native languages; and,
- Working with funders to balance reporting requirements with participants’ privacy and self-defined measures of success.
Policymakers play a critical role in supporting this work and should prioritize:
- Set aside funding that organizations can use to conduct evaluation;
- Technical assistance on effective program evaluation; and,
- Allowing government funding to be used to compensate community members for their expertise.
(Image above by Becca Quon originally published on the Digital Equity Research Center website)
I am thrilled to announce that my new article, titled “‘It’s one of the most important things we carry for us’: How mobile hotspots support people experiencing homelessness” was just published in the journal, Mobile Media & Communication. It will be part of an upcoming special issue on homelessness and mobile media.
MMC’s Social Media Editor, Nari Sawalha created this fantastic image (below) to be included on social media to help promote the article.
Here is the abstract for the article.
Previous studies have examined the benefits and challenges of using mobile phones to support people experiencing homelessness. However, few studies have considered how mobile Wi-Fi hotspots support unhoused individuals and couples through public library lending programs. This paper seeks to address a gap in mobile communication scholarship by contributing insights from a qualitative study of library patrons who checked out mobile hotspots from the Boston Public Library in Massachusetts, USA. The findings show that although mobile hotspots provided many benefits for public library patrons in general, these devices facilitated mobile communication with a different sense of urgency for six people experiencing homelessness who also happened to be in romantic relationships. More concretely, the study found that mobile Wi-Fi hotspots reduced stress and anxiety for unhoused patrons because without the devices, patrons without fixed residences worried they could not be found; that hotspots kept unhoused patrons more connected, and therefore safer, in their tents despite the cold weather and a lack of electricity; and that unhoused patrons were concerned about their devices getting stolen because of their precarious situation. Although the unhoused patrons who participated in this study also shared their recommendations regarding how mobile hotspot lending programs in public libraries could be improved, they also mentioned that the benefits of hotspot availability far outweighed their challenges. The findings have implications for those working to address homelessness, including community-based organizations, government agencies, and policymakers who seek further insights into the positive role that mobile hotspot devices can play in supporting positive health outcomes for individuals and couples experiencing homelessness.