Digital Inclusion in Urban America

2 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2016

See all articles by Brandon Brooks

Brandon Brooks

Queens University of Charlotte

William H. Dutton

University of Southern California; GCSCC Computer Science University of Oxford

Bianca Reisdorf

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte - College of Arts & Sciences; Michigan State University - Quello Center

Colin Rhinesmith

University of Oklahoma

Date Written: March 31, 2016


The work to revitalize American cities is intertwined with the push for “digital cities”. A number of infrastructure and user-oriented initiatives have developed across the US to increase Internet access, Internet adoption, and digital literacy skills supporting digital inclusion. At the same time, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners alike are seeking better ways to measure the impact and outcomes of these digital inclusion initiatives. However, there are disconnects between how different actors approach outcome indicators.

Building on the focus of the ICA2016 Blue Sky Workshop on communities of practice around policy and technological approaches to digital inclusion, research data and experiences of practitioners on the ground, this panel seeks to stimulate discussion on useful ways of measuring positive and negative outcomes of digital inclusion initiatives in urban America. Demonstrating outcomes will be critical to gaining the support necessary to enhance the state of digital inclusion in and for digital cities.

To gain an overview of developments on the ground, we focus on research from a number of American cities with strong digital inclusion programs, including Detroit, Charlotte, Austin, Cleveland, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Portland, and St. Paul. Across these cities, a common theme seems to be present around the disparities between those experiencing positive consequences of these initiatives and those who are not. Research will be complemented with practitioners’ experiences in these initiatives and their outcomes.

Academic researchers, members of the policy and regulatory communities, government officials, and non-profits have a stake in developing feasible approaches to demonstrating the value of digital city initiatives. This panel will focus on the approaches and methods used in assessing the impact of national, regional and local policies and practices aimed at enhancing digital inclusion, including: 1. How to measure the outcomes of meaningful digital inclusion initiatives; 2. Scientific and pragmatic challenges in employing various approaches to outcome indicators; and 3. Identifying new, innovative approaches to measuring outcomes in a quick and feasible way that allows quick adjustments of programs and initiatives building digital inclusion in urban America.

Combining perspectives from researchers and practitioners provides an opportunity for the TPRC community to critically discuss the challenges in measuring outcomes of digital initiatives to support inclusion and the vitality of digital cities.

The panel will consist of a mixture of researchers and practitioners involved in such initiatives at the local level in the US. One discussant with extensive experience in national digital inclusion work will lead a critical discussion with two researchers and two practitioners from two of the aforementioned cities, who understand the digital inclusion ecosystem and issues tied to their assessment. The panel will begin by providing a background on the innovative policy and research developments from national and local perspectives. This will be followed by discussion of issues tied to identifying and measuring outcomes within the constraints of city initiatives. During the last 30 minutes, the moderator will summarize and tie together research and practice through a discussion with the audience.

Keywords: Digital Inclusion, Digital and Media Literacy, Digital Cities

Suggested Citation

Brooks, Brandon and Dutton, William H. and Reisdorf, Bianca and Rhinesmith, Colin, Digital Inclusion in Urban America (March 31, 2016). TPRC 44: The 44th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Brandon Brooks (Contact Author)

Queens University of Charlotte ( email )

Knight School of Communication
1900 Selwyn Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28209
United States

William H. Dutton

University of Southern California ( email )

3502 Watt Way #304
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

GCSCC Computer Science University of Oxford ( email )

Department of Computer Science
Robert Hooke Bldg 010
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PR
United Kingdom

Bianca Reisdorf

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte - College of Arts & Sciences ( email )

Charlotte, NC
United States

Michigan State University - Quello Center ( email )

406 Communication Arts Building
404 Wilson Road
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

Colin Rhinesmith

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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