Community Data Clinic

From left: Dir. Beverly Baker, Dr. Mukund Chorghade, Nobel Prize-Winning Laureate Sir Richard J. Roberts, Chieh-Li “Julian” Chin, Jorge Rojas-Alvarez, Dr. Ruby Mendenhall.

“Advancing Digital Equity and Community Empowerment through Research and Education Partnerships” at CARE Talks 2024: Town and University as One.

Champaign, IL. Researchers from the Community Data Clinic presented “Advancing Digital Equity and Community Empowerment through Research and Education Partnerships” at CARE Talks: Communiversity Actions to Renew Engagement. The Spring 2024 Conference Topic was “Town and University as One,” with the conference being held on March 23, 2024, from 3-5pm, at Virginia Theater in Champaign, Illinois.

Chieh-Li “Julian” Chin and Jorge Rojas-Alvarez introduced 3 initiatives of the Community Data Clinic to attendees: The Digital Navigators Program and the “ConnectED: Tech for All” Podcast that stems from it; Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs): Surveillance & Policing Education; and the Community Help Desk.

The Digital Navigators Program, rooted in community partnerships, is committed in capacity building with local organizations about broadband expansion under a digital inclusion framework. In collaboration with our partners in 2 counties, we have trained 39 Digital Navigators who empower participants into civic and digital literacy. Our curriculum offers 7 modules on local human services access. For example, participants learn to access low-cost education programs, healthcare and wellness, and school bullying and cyberbullying. Digital Navigators introduce all sessions with a follow-up on participant’s new equipment, activate background knowledge based on their experiences, and motivate new directions of the conversation based on resources assessment. As an innovative strategy to expand this program’s audiences, we launched the ConnectED Podcast. Based on our participant’s testimonies and lived experiences in our program, we aim to encourage new participants to know local resources for their needs. Their inspiring stories ensure that our community members leave a podcast session with a sense of power, action elements, not paranoia.

The Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs): Surveillance & Policing Education initiative is a community partnership with CUPHD and Urbana City Council Members. This partnership aims to develop educational materials about Automated License Plate Readers. ALPRs have been used in solving crime in Champaign, Illinois. These technologies identify license plate numbers of or associated with stolen vehicles, wanted subjects, missing persons, AMBER Alerts, or other criteria as determined by a Deputy Chief of Police. ALPR use establishes a highly influential public-private apparatus that gathers information about Americans’ activities. While mass surveillance by law enforcement alone is already concerning, the involvement of a private company introduces potentials for misuse. The design of these educational processes embodies a commitment to meaningful engagement, community empowerment, and the pursuit of epistemic justice.

The Community Help Desk initiative is a collaboration between the UIUC Campus and the Community Compact’s new Community Help Desk. This collaboration bridges UIUC student-led initiatives to serve local communities on digital literacy. Students from the Community Data Clinic are developing a coding curriculum for elementary grades students and supporting the relaunch of the computer lab at Church of the Brethren in Champaign.

CARE Talks: Communiversity Actions to Renew Engagement, was initiated to address the historical divide between the community and university. The organizers propose dramatically reinventing the land-grant university mission through the STEM IL Communiversity. The Communiversity is a place where community members (e.g., mothers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, religious teachers, etc.) and members of the university (.e.g., faculty, staff, and students) work together in long-term, caring, trauma-informed, and mutually beneficial relationships. The general goal of the STEM IL Communiversity is to break down and completely eliminate entrenched barriers (racial, class, diverse learners, etc.) that often make the university an elite space that may be difficult to access.

For additional details about the project, please visit: