Net Inclusion 2017 Brings Together Digital Inclusion Advocates

This post was written by team member, Matthew Timberlake, IT Portfolio Manager of the Multnomah County Library System.

Representatives from the City of Portland, Multnomah County Library and Multnomah County attended the NDIA Net Inclusion 2017 conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This was the second annual Net Inclusion conference, and like the first, it was a remarkable gathering of professionals from many fields who work to foster the goals of digital equity and inclusion (definitions below). Also attending from Portland: members of NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network, and Free Geek, which offers free refurbished computers and technology classes.

Convened by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the 2017 conference featured speakers and panelists from government, academia, libraries, community-based organizations and non-profits. It featured video speeches by Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and the keynote address was delivered by Maya Wiley of The New School.

A recurring subject of the conference was the path forward for digital equity in light of the new Administration’s antipathy to regulation and issues of digital inclusion.

Ajit Pai, the new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has moved to roll back the internet privacy and net neutrality rules promulgated by the previous chairman, Tom Wheeler. The FCC has already severely limited the LIfeLine program, designed to provide low-cost internet access to low-income Americans.

These core issues of digital equity, free speech, and economic opportunity dominated the conference. There were more than 25 panels presented, with topics including:

The NDIA also announced that this year’s recipient of the Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award is Emy Tseng, a Senior Communications Program Specialist at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, citing Tseng’s many years of work to increase broadband access and adoption in underserved communities throughout the United States, and her efforts as the Digital Inclusion Director for the City of San Francisco, where she shaped one of the earliest local government digital inclusion programs.

Lastly, there was an effort to find clarity in defining the differences between digital equity, and its necessary component, digital inclusion. The NDIA has published the following definitions:

Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy. Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This includes 5 elements: 1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 2) internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration. Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances. Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.



Webinar: Digital Equity in Libraries: Understanding the Problem Solving Skills of Adults

On May 30, Kathy Harris of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University hosted Jill Castek and Gloria Jacobs for a webinar where we presented where we are in our research. We had people attending in person as well as virtually. It was rewarding to share our work with scholars and practitioners from Portland State University, members of our national advisory group, our IMLS program officer, and other individuals who are interested in our work.

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After our presentation, we had informative and generative 30-minute discussion.

We recorded the webinar and the discussion, and we invite you to view it.  You can also download a pdf of the slideshow and a two page hand-out about the research.  If you have ideas or questions about our work, we invite you to comment on this blog post.

View webinar

Download Slides



A Quick Update!

Last week Matt Timberlake, a member of our team from the Multnomah County Library, was at the Net Inclusion 2017 conference in Saint Paul, MN.  We’ll be sharing some insights from that experience in an upcoming post.

This week, team members Cindy Gibbon of the Multnomah County Library and Jill Castek of the University of Arizona are presenting at the Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide 2017 Conference.  We’ll also be sharing that presentation on this blog.

We are also deep into our analysis and are turning our attention to creating materials for dissemination. We’re looking forward to sharing those with you this summer and fall.

And don’t forget, we would love to feature guest bloggers!  If you have research in  the area of digital literacy acquisition, digital equity and inclusion, or experiences in working with adult learners in digital literacy that you’d like to share, please let us know! Email for more information.

Understanding Our Patrons’ Needs In Order to Thrive Together in a Digital Environment

We had the honor of once again presenting at the Oregon Library Association conference held April 19-22.  Our team members, Amy Honisett and Cindy Gibbon from the Multnomah County Library, presented on how our work is helping us to understand patrons’ needs in order to thrive in a digital environment.  We are happy to provide a pdf of our slides. If you have any questions or comments, we would love to hear from you!

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Online Northwest Conference–Assessing and Addressing Library Patrons’ Digital Problem Solving Skills: What Does Digital Equity Look Like in the Library?

At the end of March 2017, our team members, Cindy Gibbon and Judy Anderson of the Multnomah County Library along with Jill Castek of the University of Arizona, presented emergent findings at the Online Northwest Conference in Portland, Oregon.  This conference focuses on libraries, technology, and culture.  Here are our slides from our presentation.

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If you have any questions or comments, we would love to hear from you.

International Conference on PIAAC and PIAAC-Longitudinal Presentation: Examining digital problem solving skills in libraries to promote digital equity

We were honored to have presented our emerging findings at the International Conference on PIAAC and PIAAC-Longitudinal hosted by GESIS in Mannheim, Germany.  Our presenters were Gloria Jacobs of Portland State University and the University of Arizona along with Jill Castek of the University of Arizona.  It was an invigorating and generative two days of presentations by scholars from around the world on how they are using data from the Programme for the International Assessment on Adult Competencies.  Those attending our session provided us with some great additional insights into our work, and we are excited to continue digging into our data.  We are happy to share the slides from our presentation on this blog. If you have any questions or comments about these slides, we’d love to hear from you!

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Preparing for Conference Season!

We’re taking a brief hiatus from posting in DLAERHub as we prepare to deliver papers at national and international conferences.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be presenting at Online NorthwestPIAAC, and AERA.  If you’re going to be at any of those conferences, be sure to look for us!  When we return, we’ll be ready to share some of our findings with you.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

This post was written by Digital Equity in Libraries research team member Amy Honisett, Public Training Librarian at Multnomah County Library.

In our last post, we wrote about the logistical challenges involved with remote study participation. Remote access to the study tool gave participants an easy and convenient way to participate, but it left out an important demographic – community members who do not have internet access at home.

In order to reach those community members, we set up a computer lab and got help from colleagues to promote the lab at day centers, homeless shelters, and low-income housing. We anticipated a few participants, but did not expect much participation.

On the day of the lab, I started getting calls from staff as soon as the library opened. When is the lab? Does it really pay $20? How do I get on the list?

Having predicted low participation, we had planned (and promoted) the lab as first-come first served. We soon realized our mistake, as we only had eight computers available and a long line of people waiting to come in. On the first day, we ran out of time and cash. Potential participants who were turned away were disappointed, and we asked them to put their name on a list so we could give them priority at the next lab time.

When that time came, we had another long line of potential study participants. While some people were frustrated that a list had been formed at the last session, most people were understanding and kind. People waited outside the lab for hours to get their turn to participate. One self-appointed assistant helped organize newcomers and let people know what was going on as they approached.

Eventually, we added more lab times, serving most of the people who wanted to participate. We were heartened by our participants’ patience and kindness while they waited for us to develop a process.

Lessons learned:

  • Drop in or first-come, first-served functions are not appropriate in resource-limited situations.
  • In general, people are kind and flexible. Work with them to make things better.
  • Twenty dollars is a big incentive for people to participate.

Remote Study Participation — A Logistical Challenge

This post was written by Digital Equity in Libraries research team member Amy Honisett, Public Training Librarian at Multnomah County Library.

Last month, we wrote about collaborating with colleagues to get help recruiting participants for a research study. But what happened once we recruited participants and began the study? It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but we did learn a lot about what’s involved in planning for working with the community.

In the beginning, we asked potential participants to complete a survey at the library and then invited those who demonstrated a certain skill level to take part in an online assessment. A few of those participants were able to schedule time to take the assessment at our home location (the library), but many of them preferred to complete it from home.

Scheduling time for participants to come back to the library to take the assessment took a great deal of time. Many participants never returned, so we decided to stop scheduling time, instead allowing them to take it from home or anywhere else they had internet access. A few participants did use the library computers to complete the assessment, but the majority of our first wave of participants took the assessment remotely.

However, remote participation caused some problems. We had to track who had begun the assessment and not completed it, and we had to follow up with those participants, sometimes multiple times. Some of the participants never completed the assessment.

Remote participation also made coordinating the payment of incentives more difficult. Because we believed that cash might better meet the needs of our participants, we incentivized participation with cash rather than a gift card. This meant we could not send the incentives through the mail and participants had to come back to the library to pick up their incentives.

As a result, we had to ask participants which library branch they preferred to use, send the cash to that branch, and ask staff to hold onto the cash until the participant showed up. Once that happened, the staff person needed to collect a signature so that we could reconcile our grant expenditures.

While this worked well most of the time, we did encounter problems when participants never picked up their incentive, when a staff person forgot to get a signature, or when the signature sheet got lost. We were able to work out these challenges by reaching out to the participants, but it took more time.

Overall, these processes worked well. Participants were forgiving of mix ups, and we collected quite a bit of data this way. Our second round of assessments was handled differently because we were doing targeted outreach. We’ll write about that process in a different post.

Lessons learned:

  • The fewer steps in your process, the less chance you will have of making mistakes
  • People are flexible and forgiving
  • Gift cards may be an easier way to distribute incentives than cash

Digital Equity Action Planning: Community Collaboration is Key

This post was written by Digital Equity in Libraries research team member Matthew Timberlake, IT Project Portfolio Manager at Multnomah County Library.

In June of 2014, a small group sat down at Portland State University to try to figure out how to foster increased digital inclusion in our community.

The City of Portland, Multnomah County Library, and Multnomah County became the founding members of the greater Portland area Digital Inclusion Network (DIN), which brought together more than 48 organizational partners from community non-profits, government, business, public schools, higher education and media to develop a Digital Equity Action Plan (DEAP).

We began by holding multiple focus groups with communities who often lack digital access. The results confirmed the research being done nationally: The cost of broadband Internet and the devices needed to use it, as well as the scarcity of culturally specific training, are barriers to meaningful Internet adoption for marginalized groups.

The DIN used the focus group findings as the basis for a series of workshops to craft a digital strategy. The resulting strategic plan reflects the many voices at the table: new immigrants, communities of color, youth, community-based organizations and nonprofits, local government, and telco providers such as Comcast and Google Fiber.

By including so many community groups early in the formulation of the DEAP, we’ve increased our participation and commitment to action. Organizations are working to meet commitments and reach milestones they helped craft.

The DEAP identifies several action items across the five Digital Equity Goals:

Access: Ensure access to affordable high-speed Internet and devices for those in need.

Training/Support: Provide training and support to ensure that everyone has the skills to use digital technology to enhance their quality of life.

Leadership/Capacity Building: Empower community partners to bridge the digital divide through funding, coordination, training and staff resources.

Connectivity to the Digital Economy: Create opportunities for jobs in the digital economy for underserved populations.

Policy: Build a policy framework that supports digital equity and meaningful Internet adoption, leading to better community outcomes.

In April of 2016, the Digital Equity Action Plan was unanimously approved by the Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and Library District Board. Work has begun by the lead organizations to meet our milestones for our first year, and we’re excited to see the results.