Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement Framework

Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement Framework Report

The Digital Equity Research Center at the Metropolitan New York Library Council published a new report today, titled “Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement Framework” which I co-authored with my wonderful colleague Dr. Rafi Santo, Principal Researcher at Telos Learning.

As our press release explains,

The report presents findings from a participatory research project with thirty-two digital equity and digital justice coalition leaders from across the United States, who contributed their ideas to inform the Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement (DEEM) framework.

This initiative responds to a broader need within the digital equity field for conceptual frameworks and measurement tools to assist local coalitions in gathering data for planning, improvement, and advocacy purposes.

At the end of the report, we provide a list of recommendations for the following stakeholder groups who we believe could benefit from the report’s findings: state broadband and digital equity offices, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, philanthropic organizations, academic researchers, and community members.

I am incredibly grateful to Rafi Santo for his brilliant insights, which played an enormous role in developing and shaping the outcomes from this project. Thanks also to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for their collaboration and support.

I am also grateful to Nate Hill, Executive Director of METRO for his support, as well as to the following individuals for their additional assistance and support: Davis Erin Anderson, Meghan McDermott, Angela Siefer, Aaron Schill, Kathy Fall, Houman Saberi, Leon Wilson, Lauren Moore, Lynn Thurston, Munirih Jester, Bruce Clark, Chrissie Powell, Rebecca Gibbon, Hillary Kolos, and Aaron Deacon.

Many thanks also to Tony Murray who did an amazing job designing the report.

The Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement Framework report is supported with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to the New York State Library by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Digital Equity Action Research (DEAR) Fellowship: A Participatory Action Research Project

DEAR CoverI am incredibly excited to announce the publication of our new report, titled “The Digital Equity Action Research (DEAR) Fellowship: A Participatory Action Research Project” published today by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

The report features essays from our amazing DEAR fellows and their hosts who participated in our six-city virtual fellowship program that began in November 2021 and wrapped up in January this year. As my colleagues from the Black Brilliance Research project and I describe in our introduction to the report up on the Benton Institute’s website today,

The DEAR Fellowship helped young adults, ages 19–24, learn participatory action research skills to examine and address the root causes of digital inequities in their communities…As part of this initiative, one organization in each of the six participating cities—Baltimore; Boston; Cleveland; Long Beach, California; San Antonio; and Seattle—took part in the fellowship and hosted one DEAR Fellow.

The end goal of the fellowship was to increase the skills and capacity of the DEAR Fellows and their communities and to identify and address the root causes of digital inequities while learning from peers around the United States. The fellows learned new participatory action research skills, an approach that brings together advocacy and research methods to create change with those closest to the problems in community settings.

During our short time together, we had an incredible opportunity not only to learn from one another, we met with Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks’s office during a Zoom meeting pictured below. The DEAR Fellows shared what learned during the fellowship and asked Commissioner Starks and his wonderful team questions related to digital equity policy.


I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Shaun Glaze, Chris Webb, Sabrina Roach, and my colleague Malana Krongelb on this amazing fellowship program. As I wrote in the “Afterword” in the DEAR Fellowship report,

As states develop their Digital Equity Plans so they can qualify for digital equity funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, my hope is that the stories and examples found in this publication offer both guidance and inspiration for what’s possible when community members have a seat at the table. This participation not only benefits communities most impacted by the digital divide, it is also a requirement in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Next Century Cities Virtual Event: Baltimore’s Broadband Movement

Baltimore's Broadband MomentToday at 2:00pm Eastern Time, Next Century Cities will host the following event, titled “Baltimore’s Broadband Movement : A Virtual Event with Community Leadership.”

I look forward to joining these amazing leaders: Jason Hardebeck, Mayor’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, William Wells, Executive Director and Founder, aSTEAM Village and Digital KC Now, and Michell Morton, Broadband Program Specialist and Federal Program Officer, National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

During the event, I will discuss findings from my case study, titled “The Digital Equity Leadership Lab: A Case Study of Community Leadership Development to Promote Digital Equity and Justice” for the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation published earlier this year. Other cities and states planning to receive federal Digital Equity Grant funds will benefit from learning more about the City of Baltimore’s work to promote digital equity and digital justice.

Here is the description of the event:

“Unprecedented federal and state funding programs have changed broadband possibilities for communities nationwide. In Baltimore, a city where almost one and three residents face barriers to reliable, high-speed connectivity, broadband investments could help to revitalize communities that have been overlooked or excluded from the digital economy.

Join us for a conversation with local leaders who are developing ways to bring digital opportunities within reach for every Baltimore resident and the community organizers that make connectivity goals a reality.”

Here is a link to my presentation slides.

Digital Equity Leadership Lab Case Study Published

DELL Blog Post Cover

I’m super excited to announce that the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation published my case study of their Digital Equity Leadership Lab (DELL) today. The case study began 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 my interviews with DELL participants, outside experts who led DELL workshop sessions, and Deutsch Foundation staff, I 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.

Many thanks to my CI Lab colleagues, Malana Krongelb and Jie Jiang for their research support with this study and to amalia deloney, Vice President and Director of Digital Equity at the Deutsch Foundation for inviting me to conduct the study.

Joining the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton 40th Anniversary Logo

The thread throughout my career over the past twenty years, beginning as a young scholar in graduate school at Emerson College and proceeding shortly thereafter as a community media and technology practitioner at Cambridge Community Television, has been a focus on equity in access to information and communication technology (ICT) particularly for vulnerable populations. This passion has persisted as a beating drum that has helped move me and my family from Boston to Illinois to Oklahoma and back to Boston during these past twelve years. I am grateful for the privilege that I’ve had during this time to complete a doctoral program, gain tenure at an academic institution, and have the choice and opportunity to pursue an alternative pathway.

This week, I am starting off on this new path as the Senior Director of Research and Scholarship at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. While I’m sad to leave so many amazing colleagues at Simmons University, I am quickly realizing how perfect this new opportunity is for me. I’m also incredibly overwhelmed by all of the support I’ve received from friends and colleagues, as well as others online who I’ve not yet had the privilege to meet.

In this new role, I will be overseeing Benton’s research initiatives and invited fellows and their projects. I look forward to working to recruit a cohort of fellows that reflect the diversity and passion that exists in the fields of digital equity research, advocacy, and practice. I also look forward to continuing my work to better understand, document, and highlight the digital equity ecosystems that exist in communities across the U.S. The purpose will be to help guide and further inform research, policy, and practice to support social and racial justice in communities both with and without access to ICTs.

I am also looking forward to moving the Community Informatics Lab to the Benton Institute, which will continue to be a home for our work to better understand and co-design community responses to local information challenges. As local, state, and federal support and coordination builds to promote digital equity nationwide, it will be even more critical to document the challenges and opportunities facing digital equity ecosystems now into the future.

I am grateful to Benton’s Executive Director, Adrianne Benton Furniss, the Board of Directors, and Trustees for this amazing opportunity and honor.