$100,000 awarded to social justice community project led by Tech Services staff

In July 2020, Chancellor Jones announced a $2 million annual commitment by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to prioritize research focused on systemic racial inequities and injustices that exist within our communities and higher education itself.

The Call to Action to Address Racism & Social Injustice Research Program sought project proposals that focused on the removal of barriers to education and resources, an interrogation of systems of disparity, and strategies for decreasing violence and improving racial equity, well-being, and safety.

Recently, Chancellor Jones announced 22 projects that have been awarded funding. One of these projects is led by Technology Services Deputy CIO for Innovation and Technology Strategy, Tracy Smith, in collaboration with Anita Chan, from the School of Information Sciences and College of Media; the City of Champaign; and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

The project, Dignifying Digital Connection: Addressing Race and Class Privilege in Broadband Infrastructures for East Central Illinois Families, Students and Seniors, aims to “establish a baseline assessment and model for understanding the socio technical inequities that persistently prevent diverse vulnerable populations from accessing stable broadband connectivity in East Central Illinois.” These issues disproportionately affect marginalized populations like black and brown communities, low-income seniors, and families with school-age children facing poverty in Illinois.

The project is a partnership with the city of Champaign Housing Authority, several community members, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development, who also awarded the project another $50,000 under their Broadband Ready “Digital Equity” grant.

Other components of the project include improving household access to computers and other technology, sustained hotpot connectivity, and digital literacy skills.

According to the project proposal, the group will “work to dignify civic connection and minimize digital inequity via an expanded civic collaboration…to address the broadband gaps that most acutely impact the state’s marginalized and infrastructurally isolated populations.” The project will also collect data that will provide support for academic research and the expansion of community-based knowledge that advances the understanding of systemic racism and generationally embedded racial disparity.

Learn more about this and other projects funded by the Call to Action to Address Racism & Social Injustice Research Program.