New Benton Research Identifies Four Essentials for Digital Inclusion Efforts

On the anniversary of the launch of the Great Society, the Benton Foundation released new research, conducted by Benton Faculty Research Fellow Dr. Colin Rhinesmith, that identifies four essential activities that are necessary for efforts aimed at a more inclusive digital society. In conversations with and observations of eight digital inclusion organizations across the U.S., Dr. Rhinesmith, an Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma, found that in order to help low-income individuals and families adopt broadband in ways that are most appropriate to their personal needs and contexts, local organizations focus on: 1) Providing low-cost broadband, 2) Connecting digital literacy training with relevant content and services, 3) Making low-cost computers available, and 4) Operating public access computing centers.

“Today, digital inclusion organizations in low-income communities across the United States are working to address gaps in broadband adoption. Many of these inclusion organizations have been working for the past twenty years to help low-income people connect to the Internet and use the content and services found there to make their lives better,” said Dr. Rhinesmith. “Rather than focusing solely on the human-to-computer interactions, these meaningful broadband adoption efforts emphasize the human-to-human interactions that are most helpful to individuals and families.”

Adrianne B. Furniss, Benton’s Executive Director, said, “As policymakers examine the nagging divides in broadband adoption, this new research highlights the challenges we face in realizing a truly inclusive digital society.”

Poverty is intimately connected to the challenges facing low-income people in adopting broadband Internet at home. The research can help policymakers gain a deeper understanding of the important role that community-based and social service organizations, as trusted community assets, play in helping people gain access to technology in meaningful ways that reflect their everyday experiences with poverty.

Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives is available at