UK Professor Researches Broadband Availability in Eastern Kentucky, Forms ICT4EKY

(January 31, 2019) - According to a 2014 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky ranks 46thin broadband availability among US states. Roughly 23 percent of Kentucky’s rural areas do not have access to broadband internet and nearly one-fourth of the state’s households cannot access broadband at all. Those are the hard, fast facts.

With recent legislation at the state-level and a variety of local public-private partnerships, Kentucky is uniquely positioned to expand its broadband offerings to all corners of the state; however, there are concerns regarding its Eastern Kentucky counties.  

In 2017, David Nemer, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky, received a Research and Creative Activities Program (RCAP) funding award from the university’s College of Communication and Information to support his summer research in Lee and Letcher counties. 

Nemer, a professor of information communication technology (ICT), conducted exploratory fieldwork to better understand the problem space and to help promote a critical appropriation of information communication technologies. As such, he built connections with stakeholders, including local libraries and broadband committees, developed two Wikiathons and digital literacy programs, and launched a research group within the university’s School of Information Science, called “ICT for Eastern Kentucky” or ICT4EKY.  

By conducting 46 interviews, Nemer says that he had a better understanding of the uses and workarounds related to ICTs in Eastern Kentucky. This knowledge allowed him to map the dynamics of technological needs and experiences and gave him the opportunity to advocate for digital literacy and broadband expansion in the area. 

The following summer, he investigated the use of Chromebooks in the Lee County School System and collaborated with locals and other academics to further promote digital literacy and community broadband networks. He plans to return to the field in 2019. 

More recently, Nemer delivered a presentation to the Vice President of Research’s Advisory Group to discuss his findings and future directions. In his presentation he shared that he, along with Drs. Shannon Oltmann and Soohyung Joo, had submitted a grant proposal to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Community Catalyst Program. 

The proposal, titled “Activating Appalachian Communities: Investigating How Public Libraries Can Partner with Community Groups to Serve Working-Age Adults” is still in review.