News | March 21st at 9:00am
The Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) is pleased to announce the launch of the Digital Equity Research Center (DERC), a new applied research center with a focus on working with communities to better understand and co-design meaningful responses to local digital equity challenges. DERC provides in-depth, high quality research and analysis to inform digital equity practitioners, policymakers, and philanthropic communities in New York City, Westchester County, and beyond. Toward this goal, DERC engages in community-based and participatory digital equity research to advance social, economic, and racial justice.
DERC assumes digital inequality must include analyses of structural racism, economic injustice, and other forms of oppression in order to understand and address the root causes of the digital divide. Digital equity will not be achieved simply by distributing technology and internet access alone. Therefore, DERC uses critical theoretical insights along with participatory research methods to ensure those most impacted by the digital divide are included, whenever possible, in interventions to promote digital equity and social justice.
"Along with METRO's Board of Directors, I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Colin Rhinesmith to METRO as the founder and director of the Digital Equity Research Center,” said Nate Hill, Executive Director of METRO. “From our grant programs to our digital services, the entire staff at METRO is committed to ensuring principles of equity and inclusion are embedded in all we do. The founding of DERC will enable us to deepen our work with colleagues and partners in the library and archives field and beyond in this important and crucial area of work."
Dr. Colin Rhinesmith is the Founder and Director of the Digital Equity Research Center at METRO, a Senior Fellow with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and a nationally-recognized expert in the digital equity field. Rhinesmith said, "I am incredibly privileged to have this opportunity to launch DERC at METRO, which works to strengthen the role of libraries as partners in solving problems. My hope is that our new Center will serve as a hub for community-based and participatory approaches to digital equity at a time when our federal government plans to award billions of dollars in funding to support digital equity in communities nationwide.”
DERC is kicking off with a new research project that represents a partnership between METRO and Telos Learning, a research, design, and strategy firm focused on advancing educational justice and digital equity through institutional change and collective action. The project, led by Dr. Rhinesmith and Dr. Rafi Santo, Principal Researcher at Telos Learning, will develop a measurement framework and evaluative tools to assist digital inclusion coalitions in communities across the country. Santo said, “Community and place-based coalitions are critical to addressing historic disenfranchisement around digital technologies. We’re hoping to assist these groups with what they need to track challenges and successes in ways that advance their work.”
While the public library field has benefited from a wide range of evaluation tools and frameworks over the years, the more recent rise of place-based digital inclusion coalitions has opened the door for additional conceptual frameworks, methodologies, and evaluative tools to effectively and holistically measure the outcomes and impacts of these coalition-based initiatives. The research aims to address this core need for a shared measurement framework to support digital equity ecosystems and represents a foundational initial phase in a larger effort to test, deploy, and determine the value of such a framework.