Newswise — CHICAGO  -- The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated many societal inequities in the United States. Among them is the “digital divide” — the lack of access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet in many urban and rural areas, both across the United States and globally. As public health measures forced many people to work from home or attend remote school, the critical importance of internet connectivity became evident, as reflected in stories of children doing schoolwork in parked cars in search of wireless internet.

In a new project funded by a $1.2 million grant from data.org, University of Chicago Computer Science Professor Nick Feamster will lead a team of UChicago researchers pinpointing gaps in digital infrastructure, from the lack of cable or fiber connectivity to a spotty video streaming session. The effort will also build a toolkit to help civic organizations — cities, government agencies, community-based organizations and others — make informed decisions about improvements to effectively narrow the digital divide. 

The project will start with focused efforts in several Chicago communities, creating a framework and template that can eventually be scaled across the entire city and replicated in other cities and communities.

“Closing the digital divide is the ‘moonshot’ challenge for our generation,” said Feamster, Neubauer Professor of Computer Science and faculty director of the Center for Data and Computing. “It is a grand-scale challenge that will require not only technical expertise, but also an integrative approach to both scholarship and societal impact. No single discipline or single group can solve this problem, but by working across disciplines — bridging our understanding of the technical, social, economic, cultural, and policy realms — I believe we can tackle this challenge.”

Learn more about the project here: https://cdac.uchicago.edu/news/mapping-and-mitigating-the-urban-digital-divide/

To schedule an interview with Feamster, contact Cynthia Medina at [email protected] 

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