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Digital Inclusion Research Forum


Hosted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Kansas City

This forum on Oct. 12–13, 2023, highlighted the latest digital inclusion research, plus emerging methodologies and best practices in the sector.

The in-person event featured academics, researchers, community development practitioners and policymakers engaged in impactful conversations around digital inclusion research in such areas as:

  • Program evaluation.
  • Outcomes measurement.
  • Socioeconomic benefits of digital inclusion interventions.
  • Historically underserved and unserved communities.


Thursday, October 12
8:00 a.m. Registration and check-in
8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Welcome remarks
Alfreda Norman, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Lorie Logan, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
9:20 a.m. Keynote—Setting the Stage: Why Digital Inclusion Research Matters

Nicol Turner Lee, Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings | Presentation

Learn how closing the digital divide is central to America's global competitiveness, especially in places where some of the nation's most vulnerable populations have been left behind.

10:00 a.m. Providing a Research Framework: The Digital Opportunities Compass

Colin Rhinesmith, Digital Equity Research Center | Presentation
Pierrette Renée Dagg, Merit Network

This session introduces the Digital Opportunities Compass, a framework to guide state and local digital inclusion planning. This framework can be used to provide a holistic picture of digital equity in a community, identify key factors that influence outcomes, and support planning and strategy development.

10:45 a.m. Session 1A: Frameworks for Effective Digital Equity Efforts for Minority Populations

Diego Deleersnyder, Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program | Presentation
Erezi Ogbo, North Carolina Central University | Presentation

Speakers discuss the existing literature on digital equity efforts targeting underserved communities and present frameworks to guide future efforts to close the digital divide.

Session 1B: Practical Applications of Research Methodologies

Amy Gonzales, University of California Santa Barbara | Presentation
Leanne Przybylowski, Temple University | Presentation

Scholars and practitioners of digital equity have many shared goals but often work in parallel. This session explores the points of intersection between the two sectors, with an emphasis on what academic researchers can offer those working to improve digital equity in their communities.

11:45 a.m. Session 2A: Breaking the Traditional Research Paradigm to Create Effective Digital Inclusion Programs

Maria Chaparro, Mamacitas Ciberneticas | Presentation
Caroline Stratton, Florida State University | Presentation

Efforts to understand vulnerable communities’ needs and priorities for digital inclusion solely through quantitative data collection have the potential to miss important insights, particularly when a community’s culture places high value on meaningful conversation for building trusting relationships. Learn how qualitative research and community engagement methods can be used to develop effective digital skills training programs that respond to learners’ needs.

Session 2B: Rural Connectivity: What Difference Does It Make?

Heather E. Hudson, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage | Presentation

This session presents key concepts that explain how connectivity can contribute to socioeconomic development and field research strategies to investigate how and under what conditions investment in rural broadband contributes to rural development.

12:50 p.m. Lunch Session: Marginalized Populations Barriers and Opportunities with ACP

Moderator: Jeremy Hegle, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
John B. Horrigan, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society | Presentation
Kelly Wert, The Pew Charitable Trusts | Presentation

This session outlines The Pew Charitable Trusts Broadband Access Initiative’s research on connecting families living in federally subsidized multifamily housing. Also covered is the Benton Institute’s ACP Performance Tool, which shows how ACP enrollment patterns can target places with high need for digital inclusion resources. Panelists discuss near-term considerations and tools to effectively conduct outreach initiatives.

2:00 p.m. Session 3A: Building Black Tech Ecosystems

Fallon Wilson, #BlackTechFutures Research Institute
Isaac McCoy, Stillman College
Jurnell Cockhren, Civic Hacker
Lena Winfree, Blacks in Technology Foundation

Panelists share insights on how local, state and national leaders can build equitable digital futures for Black communities. They discuss the Black Tech Ecosystem Index and findings from four cities that provide specific recommendations to municipalities on how to leverage the federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program and Digital Equity Act (DEA) funding.

2:00 p.m. Session 3B: Broadband Access, Speed and Affordability Among Covered Populations

Ambika Nair, Federal Reserve Bank of New York | Presentation
Belicia Rodriguez, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Speakers highlight regional trends on broadband access and affordability, focusing on the northeastern U.S. states, as well as break down how each covered population is affected by the digital divide. They also discuss the Affordable Connectivity Program as a case study in addressing internet affordability and examine the available public data on internet speed and cost, including data from FCC broadband maps, Ookla Speedtests, the Census Bureau and the MarkUp.

3:10 p.m. Connect and Collaborate: Digital Opportunity Networking Session

Facilitator: Kelty Garbee, Texas Rural Funders
Facilitator: Cindy Fisher, Texas Broadband Development Office 

Join this session for a dynamic and friendly networking opportunity to learn practical insights about how researchers and practitioners approach the work and how they can continue to collaborate for broader impact on the digital inclusion ecosystem.

4:00 p.m. Session 4A: The American Prison, a Site of Digital Exclusion

Kurtis Tanaka, Ithaka S+R | Presentation

This session provides the context for understanding the challenges and complexities of conducting digital equity and inclusion research in carceral settings and focuses on access to and the use of digital technology to support higher education in prison programming.

  Session 4B: Digital Equity Gaps in Native American Communities

H. Rose Trostle, Center for Indian Country Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Presentation

This session highlights preliminary findings on broadband access and adoption on tribal lands. The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a $75 monthly subsidy for broadband to households on tribal lands, but there appears to be less participation in the program on tribal lands when compared with neighboring nontribal areas.

4:45 p.m. Session 5A: Closing the Digital Skill Divide: The Payoff for Workers, Business and the Economy

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, National Skills Coalition | Presentation
Nye Hodge, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Analysis of 43 million help-wanted ads found that the demand for digital skills is robust across industries and occupations in the U.S. Hear findings from the analysis, including key takeaways and implications for digital inclusion researchers, policymakers and advocates. Learn how this data can inform Digital Equity Act implementation and illuminate barriers and opportunities for covered populations.

Session 5B: Refugee Women’s Technology Ecosystems

Stacey Wedlake, University of Washington | Presentation

This presentation covers the relationship between access to technology, technology education, and social and economic inclusion for refugee women in the United States. Learn about women’s experiences navigating different social and technical environments using all types of technologies and the implications for digital inclusion programs.

5:30 p.m. Closing remarks
Alvaro Sanchez, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
5:40 p.m. Reception and posterboard session


Aspen Principles for Latino Digital Success
Diego Deleersnyder, Aspen Latinos and Society | Poster

Broadband and Beyond: Getting Connected in the Fourth District
Merissa Piazza, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland | Poster

Connected Dallas: A Hyperlocal Approach to Digital Navigation
Francisco Gallegos, Dallas Innovation Alliance | Poster

Crossing the Divide: What We Learned from a Disconnected Neighborhood
Jeremy Hegle, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City | Poster

Designing Research from a Behavioral & Social Change Approach
Leanne Przybylowski, Temple University | Poster

Digital Equity Act Grant Programs
Brett Litzler and Richelle Crotty, National Telecommunications and Information Administration | Poster

Digital Opportunities Compass
Colin Rhinesmith, Digital Equity Research Center and Pierrette Renée Dagg, Merit Network | Poster

Identifying Digitally Underserved Communities: El Paso, Texas
Mayra Maldonado and Xiaofei Chen, Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness at the University of Texas at El Paso | Poster

The Digital Inclusion Landscape
Xiaohan Zhang and Prithvi Kalkunte, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas | Poster

The Digital Divide Tracks Poverty Lines
Corian Zacher, Next Century Cities | Poster

Friday, October 13
8:00 a.m. Registration and check-in
8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Welcome
Ashley Putnam,  Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
9:10 a.m. Measuring the Impact and Cost-Benefit of Digital Inclusion and Broadband

Roberto Gallardo, Purdue Center for Regional Development | Presentation
Chris Behr, HDR | Presentation

Measuring the impact of investments, policies and projects on digital inclusion is difficult. Regional Economic Models Inc., or REMI, is a computable general equilibrium model used to understand the overall impacts of investments on specific demographic groups, and the weighted benefit-cost analysis is an economic evaluation approach to account for equity considerations. 

10:00 a.m. Session 1A: Advancing Digital Inclusion in Communities

Marycruz De Leon, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas | Presentation
Kassandra Huhn, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas supports four communities through its Advancing Digital Inclusion Initiative. Over the course of the initiative, the Dallas Fed has learned lessons about coalition work, including  how academics and researchers can plug in to help communities progress on their digital inclusion endeavors.

10:00 a.m. Session 1B: Advancing Broadband Policy with the Netrics Measurement Platform: An Inclusive Connectivity Approach

Nicole P. Marwell, University of Chicago | Presentation
Alexis Schrubbe, Internet Equity Initiative, University of Chicago

Netrics data collection techniques have revolutionized the ability to monitor and address issues related to broadband access and equity. Learn data collection methods with a particular focus on speed test measurements, the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment initiative, and the advanced Netrics platform.

10:45 a.m. Session 2A: Measuring Digital Skills in the Workforce

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation | Presentation
David Nunnally, Connected Nation

The Digital Talent Index (DTI) measures how well individuals and communities are prepared to use the digital tools that many employers demand. By measuring these skill levels at both the individual and community levels, the DTI can help communities identify where they need increased training and show employers where to find new employees with the digital skills they need.

Session 2B: Bringing Together State and University Resources to Accelerate Broadband Data Collection and Analysis

Jamie Kleinsorge, CARES, University of Missouri Extension | Presentation
Alan Spell, EXCEED, University of Missouri Extension
Justin Krohn, CARES, University of Missouri Extension

The University of Missouri Broadband Initiative has partnered with the State of Missouri Office of Broadband Development to catalyze broadband expansion across the state. One way the two groups work together is through data collection and analysis. Three key broadband data collection and analysis efforts have helped leaders in Missouri understand how access, affordability and adoption look across the state.

11:35 a.m. Working Lunch: The Future of Digital Inclusion Research

Facilitator: Jane Santa Cruz, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas | Brainstorming session notes

Join our working lunch session to reflect on gaps in digital inclusion research and discuss new ideas and opportunities. Participants will have time to brainstorm responses to a set of guiding questions, post their ideas and discuss as a group. Responses will also be collected and shared after the event so participants can use this research wish list in the future.

12:50 p.m. Closing remarks
Kseniya Benderskaya, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
1:00 p.m. Adjourn