Community Informatics Initiative, 2007-11

Community informatics is the study of communities and how they interact with technology. The Community Informatics Initiative promoted related teaching and research. It was supported by a 2007-11 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Community-based research and teaching

Through the Initiative, students and faculty collaborated closely with community members to cultivate innovative technological solutions to the many issues facing society today including poverty, violence, food security, and more. They drew from fields such as sociology, planning, computer science, critical theory, women’s studies, library and information science, and management studies to promote social, cultural, and economic development of communities.

We used an inquiry-based learning approach that emphasized participants as active agents and an experimental attitude towards finding solutions to local problems.

Community informatics emphasizes hands-on engagement through partnerships with local, national, and international organizations through a project centered approach that allows students to experience the intersection of theory and practice as they build sustained relationships with communities.

These projects may include the development of local broadband infrastructure, the deployment of digital literacy programs, or the use of mobile technologies for health care delivery or economic development.

Grounded in community spaces

The Initiative is a research program that focuses on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to support and empower communities, particularly in underserved and disadvantaged areas. It seeks to understand how ICTs can be used to address social and economic issues, such as poverty, education, healthcare, and civic engagement, at the local level.

This involves research on the ways in which communities use and benefit from ICTs, as well as the challenges they face in adopting and using these technologies. It also works to develop and disseminate best practices and tools for using ICTs in community development.

The CII is often involved in projects that involve partnerships with community organizations, government agencies, and other stakeholders to support the implementation and evaluation of ICT-based initiatives.