Research

My research is focused on the social, community, and policy aspects of information and communication technology, particularly in areas related to digital inclusion and broadband adoption. As Director of the Community Informatics (CI) Lab, my team and I work to better understand and co-design community responses to local information challenges. Toward this goal, the CI Lab engages in research initiatives that promote digital equity and social justice.

CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS

Growing Healthy Digital Equity Ecosystems During COVID-19 and Beyond. We define Digital Equity Ecosystems as interactions between individuals, populations, communities, and their larger sociotechnical 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. Our research in this area seeks to understand the impact of COVID-19 on individuals and families without household internet access and how digital inclusion coalitions across the nation have responded in turn. The goal of the study is to provide data and evidence to help local, state, and federal policymakers in the U.S. develop more effective digital equity strategies nationwide. Findings from the study will also be useful for key stakeholders working to promote digital equity and racial justice in communities struggling with poverty during COVID-19 and after the pandemic ends. The publication of the first phase of our research is being supported by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

Measuring Library Broadband Networks for the National Digital Platform. This research project in partnership with Measurement Lab (M-Lab) at Code for Science & Society and Internet2 examines 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.The project is funded by a grant (award #LG-71-18-0110-18) from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

PAST RESEARCH PROJECTS

At the Edges of the National Digital Platform: Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs. This research project in partnership with researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Oklahoma State University will examine how rural libraries address the challenges of Internet connectivity with hotspot lending programs. The project will gather qualitative and quantitative data from 24 rural libraries with hotspot lending program experience, focusing on the librarians involved with the program, the users of the program, local community stakeholders, and non-users. Research outcomes will address the role of rural libraries in local information ecosystems, the impact of hotspot lending programs on users’ quality of life and digital literacy, community outcomes of these programs, and practical requirements for offering hotspot lending programs. Deliverables for the project include a guidelines document on program implementation, a short report on rural Internet connectivity and libraries, and a final research report. The project is funded by a grant (award #RE-31-16-0014-16) from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Multiple Case Study Analysis of U.S. Broadband Adoption Initiatives. The research seeks to fill a gap in the literature on local broadband adoption initiatives that are incorporating low-cost broadband Internet service, public access to computers, and digital literacy training. In order to fully serve their communities, innovative organizations are working with local partners to increase broadband adoption. Broadband adoption has been defined as an individual’s ability to purchase broadband Internet service at home. While there are plenty of studies to show how libraries and other community-based organizations serve community members through public access to computers and digital literacy training, there is less evidence to show how organizations in local communities are working together to support people’s ability to adopt broadband Internet at home, while also providing public computing access and digital literacy training. This study seeks to address this gap by conducting interviews with administrators, staff, and community members involved in local broadband adoption initiatives in order to gain a deeper understanding of what role these programs play in helping community members to adopt high-speed Internet service at home. The research is funded by a grant from the Benton Foundation.

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