Dr. Jon Gant: "Building Digital Inclusive Communities: Schools of Information as a Community Catalyst"

March 3, 2017 12:00 pm
Manning 208

Join us this Friday, March 3, for a CRADLE talk from North Carolina Central University’s Jon Gant, Dean of the School of Library and Information Sciences.

When? Friday, March 3, 12-1pm, Manning 208

Title & Abstract: Building Digital Inclusive Communities: Schools of Information as a Community Catalyst

Since the late 2000’s there has been a range of initiatives to foster digital inclusion that have now sown the seeds of current and emerging efforts to develop smart and connected communities. These are communities built with broadband Internet infrastructures “in which their inhabitants and the surrounding built and natural environments are increasingly connected by smart technologies, leading to new opportunities for innovation, improved services, and enhanced quality of life”[1]. Often the visionary promise of smart and connected communities rests on advances in sociotechnical strategies to leverage information and communication technology with research development and deployment capabilities of universities to accelerate the vitality of urban and rural cities and communities to meet the information needs of each person. Over this same time period, there has been effort and significant public and private sector investment focused to improve Internet access, digital literacy training and adoption strategies, and innovation through new applications and services to support community anchor institutions – libraries, schools, and other community serving institutions  - key constituents of the nation’s network of programs in library and information science. Currently, for example, the National Science Foundation, NIST and other key initiatives such as US Ignite and the Metrolab Network are encouraging researchers to examine strategies for developing smart and connected communities.  IMLS is accepting applications to examine how public libraries can serve as a community catalyst.  NIH seeks research to examine how to improve the information flows to mitigate health disparities.  However, the impact that the various programs have had on these issues is uneven. Some schools are more effective than others in how to evolve strategically in the face of uncertainty in how to respond to the structural changes in the demand for library and information science education; as well as, uncertainty in how to leverage research into practice and engagement effectively in the face of the changing political, institutional and technological landscape within the communities in which each school serves. In this talk, I will provide a framework for the opportunity for library and information science programs to serve as a community catalyst to develop socially and digitally inclusive communities. And I will share insights for this framework based on my research and my experience and reflections with directing and building UC2B-fiber, a gigabit fiber broadband network public-private partnership serving Urbana, Champaign and the University of Illinois, founding the Center for Digital Inclusion at the School of Information at the University of Illinois, and serving currently as the Dean of the School of Library and Information Science at North Carolina Central University.

Bio: Dr. Jon Gant, Ph.D., is the Dean of the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University. Known as an innovative and compassionate scholar, award-winning educator, and successful administrator, his deep lifelong passion has been to improve digital inclusion in ways that help individuals, communities, public libraries and others to help close the digital divide.

Gant has conducted groundbreaking research in the areas of Internet access and use, broadband adoption, and new models for delivering digital literacy training in public libraries and community anchor institutions.

He was formerly a faculty member at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he had been employed since 2007.

In 2009, he founded the Center for Digital Inclusion at the University of Illinois. Gant also served as board chair and senior executive officer at Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband, a University of Illinois-led public/private partnership funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program to build one of the first municipal gigabit fiber broadband networks in the U.S.

Gant also serves as principal investigator for the US Ignite/National Science Foundation Smart Gigabit Community initiative that is building a nationwide test bed to develop applications for gigabit broadband networks. He established the Illinois Digital Innovation Leadership Program developing a scalable university-community public engagement model using community makerspaces and Fab Labs, public libraries, schools and museums to improve digital literacy skills statewide in digital fabrication, digital media production and data analytics.

Funding for his research has come from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, American Library Association, the Organization for Economic Coordination and Development, the International Telecommunication Union, the National Science Foundation, US Ignite, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, IBM, State Farm Insurance and others.

Gant received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. He previously held faculty positions at Syracuse University and Indiana University.

[1] National Science Foundation, Program Solicitation, NSF 16-610, Smart and Connected Communities, https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16610/nsf16610.htm