PhD student receives Google Policy Fellowship at New America Foundation
Colin Rhinesmith, a doctoral student in library and information science at Illinois, is trying to bridge the digital divide. The digital divide addresses how a lack of access to computers and the Internet can hamper certain parts of the population.
After years researching community media and the social impact of broadband technology, Rhinesmith was named a Google Policy Fellow and will work in Washington, D.C., this summer with the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative.
“I was totally blown away when I heard the news,” Rhinesmith said. “It was very exciting. It’s a real honor to be involved with the New American Foundation.”
The fellowship has two main components. In the first, Rhinesmith will be assisting the Open Technology Initiative’s (OTI) work with the Free Library of Philadelphia and its involvement with four community organizations: Heavenly Hall Annex, Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Institute for the Development of African-American Youth and The Village of Arts and Humanities. These organizations are "hot spots" that provide library resources, such as free computer labs with Internet, to the community through a two-year John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant.
Rhinesmith will assess each organization’s needs to help in their community engagement efforts, which include increasing people's access to life-enhancing information and knowledge.
In the second part of the fellowship, Rhinesmith will be gathering data for his dissertation at Illinois. Since Rhinesmith’s research involves community media, he wants to interview executives, managers and staff at community organizations in Philadelphia.
“This allows me to start collecting data, which will provide a huge jump start at working on my dissertation,” Rhinesmith said.
Rhinesmith’s research focuses on how community media organizations have transitioned historically and how they are trying to transition into the broadband world. He will conduct a comparative study with organizations that have adopted broadband technology in Philadelphia and Detroit, looking at how those organizations use both traditional and emerging technology to serve their community’s information needs.
“It’s really perfect,” Rhinesmith said. “The New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative works hard to match the research interests of the Policy Fellows with the work that he or she will be involved with at the organization.”
The fellowship, 10 paid weeks, is more of a job than an internship, Rhinesmith said.
Rhinesmith just finished his first year as a PhD student and is a member of Christian Sandvig’s Project on Public Policy and Advanced Communication Technology.