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KU Center for Digital Inclusion convening Tech and Social Justice Workshop

Friday, June 04, 2021

LAWRENCE — Digital technology continues to become a more and more important part of the way people connect to the world around them. People need internet connections, a connected device and the skills to use them to find and apply for jobs, pay bills, access services like utilities and communicate. Technology is often praised as a way to mitigate social inequities, but for people without the necessary connectivity, equipment or skills, technology is a barrier.

The University of Kansas Center for Digital Inclusion, which focuses on how best to break down those barriers, will host the Tech and Social Justice Workshop. Sponsored by a National Science Foundation-funded grant on advancing informal learning in technology, the June 10-11 workshop will convene scholars, policymakers, practitioners and citizens concerned with how technology might be used to enhance social justice and better support marginalized populations.

“The workshop will be an opportunity to raise awareness on challenges and barriers that marginalized populations face in accessing and using technologies, facilitate networking and partnerships between academic researchers and community organizations on digital equity and inclusion, and provide prescriptive measures to effect change,” said Hyunjin Seo, founding director of the Center for Digital Inclusion and associate professor and Docking Faculty Scholar in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, who directs the research project behind the workshop.

The $1.4 million NSF grant funds the RETURN project, through which women recently released from jail or prison in Kansas and Missouri work with an interdisciplinary team of faculty members, graduate students and undergraduate students on technology education. Following community-based and co-design principles, the project team collaborates closely with program participants and community partners throughout the process. For example, the needs and interests of the women in the program determine the curriculum, and women typically learn office programs, website creation, information privacy, online security and basic coding skills. Through this research, the team has developed evidence-based approaches to serving digitally disadvantaged populations.

The Tech and Social Justice Workshop will take place virtually and feature keynote speaker Lucy Bernholz, director at Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford PACS, on Thursday, June 10.

On June 11, the conversation will continue with panels on Digital Inclusion During COVID-19, Marginalized Women and Social Justice, and Lessons Learned: NSF Project Team on Informal Technology Education for Women Transitioning from Incarceration. Speakers include scholars from Harvard, Kansas, Michigan and Washington universities with representatives from National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Kansas Office of Broadband Development, KC Digital Drive and PCs for People.

Registration for this event is offered at no cost and is open to members of the public. Contact the Center for Digital Inclusion (cdi@ku.edu) for details or questions. KU’s Institute for Policy & Social Research is supporting this workshop and managing the NSF grant.

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