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Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement Framework (2022)

Posted on:
December 12, 2022

"This report introduces a measurement framework to assist local coalitions in their efforts to grow and sustain healthy digital equity ecosystems. Digital equity ecosystems are interactions between individuals, populations, communities, and their larger environments that all play a role in shaping the work in local communities to advance more equitable access to technology and social, economic, and racial justice.

The Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement (DEEM) framework assumes that local coalitions play a key role in this work. Through local coordination of digital inclusion services, information and resource sharing, networking, data collection, and advocacy, local coalitions have mobilized individuals and organizations across their communities to take action. While these local coalitions continue to address their communities’ digital equity challenges, many lack the conceptual frameworks and measurement tools needed to gather data for planning, improvement, and argumentation purposes.

In response, this report presents findings from a participatory design research project with 32 digital equity and digital justice coalition leaders and members who came together for two workshops in June 2022. The DEEM framework presented in this report is the result of a synthesis of data gathered from these two workshops, as well as from a series of stakeholder interviews with local coalition leaders and a literature review conducted before the workshops began.

The DEEM framework introduced in Table 1 and further detailed in this report is meant to represent the ideas and contributions from our research participants and introduce these concepts to a broader group of coalition leaders, members, and stakeholders. Ultimately, the DEEM framework should be useful to any local coalition working to understand and evaluate their work to grow and sustain healthy digital equity ecosystems."

Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement (DEEM) Framework Overview

The Need For A Measurement Framework

"While recent academic studies and practitioner reports have sought to understand the impacts of the pandemic on those without computers, broadband, and digital literacy training, few reports have laid out what local coalitions might need to assess their efforts and themselves in this work to advance digital inclusion, equity, and justice. The Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement (DEEM) framework presented in this report attempts to address this gap in both academic and practitioner spaces by providing local coalitions with a way to both understand and measure the health, strength, and impacts of their efforts alongside their communities."

"The DEEM framework is meant to be a starting point to encourage deeper engagement around the ongoing efforts, as well as the broader outcomes and impacts, of local coalitions. This work is also timely as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration begins to release billions of dollars in federal funding to advance broadband and digital equity over the next five years.2 Now and in the coming years, there will be a growing need to better conceptualize and measure the impact of this public funding and to use data to improve coalition efforts even after these federal programs have completed. Furthermore, while philanthropic and other stakeholders might understand why digital equity matters, these same entities may lack the conceptual frameworks needed to grasp the internal and external evidence of the need for and impacts of coalitions in particular. A clearly articulated, rigorous, and accessible framework to measure the efforts led by local coalitions can further support initiatives to promote universal broadband, deliver new opportunities, and strengthen digital equity ecosystems...

The measurement levels included in the DEEM framework are rooted in a general theory of change around how digital equity coalitions operate and how they approach the process of advancing goals of digital inclusion, equity, and justice. This theory of change focuses on how the backbone layer of the coalition, including individual organizations serving in this role, creates new opportunities for various forms of coordination and capacity building among previously uncoordinated organizations that are working to advance digital equity with their local communities. This coordination and capacity building, in turn, then supports these organizations to develop new or improve existing work they are engaged in. These new or improved efforts on the part of coalition member organizations then positively impact the lives of individuals and communities on the whole vis-a-vis valued outcomes around digital inclusion, equity, and justice."



This report introduces a measurement framework to assist local coalitions in their efforts to grow and sustain healthy digital equity ecosystems.