Community informatics

Community informatics (CI) is an interdisciplinary field that is concerned with using information and communication technology (ICT) to empower members of communities and supports their social, cultural, and economic development. [1] [2] Community informatics may contribute to enhancing democracy, supporting the development of social capital, and building well connected communities; moreover, it is probable that such similar actions may be new positive social change . [2] In community informatics, there are several considerations which are the social contexts, shared values, distinct processes that are taken by members of a community, and social and technical systems.[2] It is formally located as an academic discipline within a variety of academic faculties including information science , information systems , computer science , planning , development studies , and library science among others and draws on insights on community development from a range of backgrounds. disciplines. It is an interdisciplinary approach interested in using ICTs for different forms of community action, as distinct from ICT effects. [1] [3]


Most humans live in communities. In some urban areas, community and neighborhood are conflated but this may be a limited definition. [4] Communities are defined as coming together in the pursuit of common goals or by any means, including physical, electronic, and social networks . [5] They proliferate even while the ability to define them is amorphous.

Cultures ensure their growth and survival by the norms and mores that are the bases of their way of life. [6] Communities Can Use the Infrastructure of ICTs as a Method of Continuing Culture Within the Context of the Internet and the World Wide Web. [7] A cultural identity is defined within the context of these technologies, it can be replicated and disseminated through various means, including the sharing of information through websites, applications, databases, and file sharing. [8] In this manner, a group that defines its cultural identity within the framework of the technological infrastructure is empowered to hold valuable exchanges within the spheres of economics, political power, high and popular culture, education, and entertainment.[9]

Since the inception of the Internet and the World Wide Web, we have seen the exponential growth of enterprises [10] from the point of view of electronic commerce, social networking, entertainment and education ongoing cultural enrichment through technology. [11] However, there are many people who can benefit from these services through impediments such as geographical location, lack of funds, gaps in technology and the expertise and skills that are required to operate these systems. [12] [13]

One-to-many social tools (for example, corporate intranets, or purpose-built exchange and social networking services such as eBay, or Myspace), or in developing applications for individual use. There is far less understanding, or investment in social networks and processes that are intended for the purpose of social change.

The communal dimension (and focus of Community Informatics) results in a strong interest in studying and developing strategies for how ICTs can enable and empower those living in physical communities. This is particularly the case where ICT access is done communally, through telecentres , information kiosks, community multimedia centers, and other technologies. This latter set of approaches to information and communication technology for development ( ICT4D ) has emerged as a significant element in strategic (and funding) approaches to social and economic development in Less Developed Countries. ICT4D initiatives have been undertaken by the United Nations Development Program , the World Bank , the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation ; have emerged as a key element in the poverty alleviation component of UN Millennium Development Goals ; and as important directions for private sector investment both from a market perspective (see ” Bottom of the Pyramid “) and from companies concerned with finding a channel for goods and services to rural and low income communities.

There is so growing interest in Community Informatics as an approach to understanding of different ICTs can enable and empower marginalized communities to achieve their collective goals.

Understanding communities

It is crucial to know how communities are formed and evolved and how to participate in a community and differs while training process. [2] Understanding the nature of communities and the participation process will likely ensure and implement a successful ICT solution that benefits members of the community while communicating with others or performing certain tasks. [14] The following points include a brief description of the nature of each potential community formation.

Community as a place

A group of people can live in a place where they live, enjoy staying, and work. [2] They are generally involved in these communities, and they understand that they are highly integrated. [2] Beside the home and the work gathering, people usually like to spend their time at their places to meet new friends or have a chance to meet new people. [2]

Community as a socio-spatial entity

A group of people may form a community they have frequent direct interactions or live in close proximity to each other. [2] The members of such community may have strong bonds and have a greater focus on other communities. [2] Moreover, as the number of members increases, the community may become reputable and has a higher status over other communities. [2]

Community as links between people

A group of people may have a common community. [2] People may form such community to support and advocate common shared values, morals or norms in which they believe. [2] Such a community may have a set of symbols and be associated with a status over other communities. [2] The inclusion and the exclusion to such community depends on the same identity. [2] For instance, people who come from the community may not be able to join the community but they do not know each other in advance. [2]

Community of interests

A group of people may form a community they have similar affinity for a particular activity, experience, or subject. [2] The geographical location is not necessary while making such a community, and the inclusion and the exclusion to such a community depends on the affinity or not. [2]

Communities linked to life stage

A group of people may form a community if they share a similar experience in a separate life stage. [2] The experience could be related to, such as their children. [2] For instance, parents of elementary school children may form a community in which they care for their children while in school. [2] As it is mentioned in the previous type of community training, the members of such community having a caring about their children while in school. [2] This type of community may be persistent, but it does not include a single person. [2]

Communities of practice

A group of people who share a similar profession may form a community in which they work to achieve their goals and advance in their profession. [2] Three important concepts are considered to be of mutual benefit, joint enterprise, and shared repertoire. [2] In a community of practice, the members are mutually committed to each other by establishing collaborative relationships that will allow them to work on certain joint activities. [2]In the second concept, which is a member of the community, the members of the community have a role to play in the work of the community, and they are able to work in harmony. [2] In addition to these two concepts, the members of the community of practice have a shared directory of procedures or ways to perform certain tasks. [2] They usually agree on these procedures and practices that they establish and develop over time. [2]

Conceptual approaches

As an academic discipline, CI can be seen in the fields of applied information and communications technology. Community informatics is a technique for social and economic development, social networking websites, cultural awareness and enhancement of online connections and networks, electronic commerce, information exchanges, and other topics that contributes to a personal and group identity. The term was brought to prominence by Michael Gurstein. Michael Gurstein says that community is a technology strategy or that it connects to the community level economic and social development with the emergence of community and civic networks, electronic commerce, online participation, self-help, virtual health communities, “Tele-centers” , as well as other types of online institutions and corporations. He Brought out the first representative collection of academic papers, [15] ALTHOUGH others, Such As Brian Loader and his colleagues at the University of Teesside used the term in the mid-1990s. [16]

CI brings together the practices of community development and organization, and insights from fields such as sociology, planning, computer science, critical theory , women’s studies, library and information science, management information systems, and management studies. Its outcomes- community networks and community-based ICT-enabled services-are of growing interest to grassroots organizations, NGOs and civil society, governments, the private sector, and multilateral agencies among others. Self-organized community initiatives of all varieties, from different countries, are Concerned with ways to harness ICT for share capital, poverty alleviation and for the empowerment of the “local” in relation to its larger economic, political and social environments. Some claim is potentially a form of radical practice. [17]

Community informatics may not be a single subject within the academy, but remain a local convenient for interdisciplinary activity, drawing upon many fields of social practice and endeavor, as well as knowledge of community applications of technology. However, one can begin to see the emergence of a postmodern “trans-discipline” presenting a challenge to existing disciplinary “stove-pipes” from the perspectives of the rapidly evolving fields of technology practice, technology change, public policy and commercial interest. Whether or not such a “trans-discipline” can maintain its momentum remains to be given the uncertainty about the boundaries of such disciplines as community development. [18]

Furthermore, there is a continuing disconnect entre Those coming from an Information Science perspective for social Whom theories, Including general theories of gold unfamiliar are organizing Seemingly irrelevant to solving complex ‘technical’ problems, [19] and Those Whose focus is upon the theoretical and practical issues around working with communities for democratic and social change [20] [21]

Given that many of these are academics, it is only inevitable that a process of “sense-making” with respect to these efforts would follow from “tool-making” efforts. These academics, and some community activists connected globally through the medium. clarification needed ]

A first formal meeting of researchers with an interest in these initiatives was held in conjunction with the 1999 Global Community Networking Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This meeting Began the process of linking community-based ICT initiatives in Developed Countries with Initiatives Undertaken in Developing Countries , qui Were Often share of larger economic and social development funded by agencies Such programs as the UN Development Program , World Bank , or the International Development Research Center. Academics and researchers interested in ICT efforts in developing countries. For example, the issue of sustainability as a technical, cultural, and economic problem for community informatics HAS resulted in a special issue of the Journal of Community Informatics [22] as well as the subject of Ongoing conferences in Prato, Italy and other conferences in South Africa. [23]

In Canada, the beginnings of CI can be recognized from various trials in community networking in the 1970s (Clement 1981). An essential development occurred in the 1990s, due to the change of cost of computers and modems. Moreover, Balka 1992) and by the labor movement (Mazepa 1997). [14]

Social information beyond an immediate concern for a community

Main article: Social informatics

Social informatics refers to the body of research and study that examines social aspects of computerization-including the roles of information technology in social and organizational change, the uses of information technologies in social contexts, and the ways that the social organization of information technologies is influenced. by social forces and social practices. [24] Historically, social information in the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Northern Europe. [25] In Europe, some researchers have pointed out that the importance of social computing issues is one of the most important aspects of social computing. [26]Within North America, the field is represented largely by independent research efforts at a number of various institutions. Social informatics research diverges from earlier, deterministic (both social and technological) models for measuring the social impacts of technology. Such technological deterministic models of information technology have been used and have been used with a pre-determined set of impacts. Similarly, the socially deterministic theory represented by some proponents of the social construction of technology (SCOT) or social shaping of technology theory and technology as the product of human social forces. [27]


There is a tension between the practice and research ends of the field. To this extent Some Reflects the gap, familiar from other disciplines Such As community development , community organizing and community based research. [28] In addition, the difficulty that Information Systems has in recognizing the qualitative dimension of technology is that of the type of approach taken by the community of professionals. . This is a difficulty also seen in the relationship between strict technology research and management research. [19]Problems in conceptualising and Evaluating complex social interventions Relying technical basis we are familiar from community health and community education . There are long-standing debates about the desire for accountable – especially quantifiable and outcome-focused social development, typically practiced by government or supported by foundations, and the more participatory, qualitatively rich, process-driven priorities of grass-rooted community activists, familiar from theorists such as Paulo Freire , or Deweyan pragmatism . quote needed ]

Some of the theoretical and practical tensions sont également familiar from Such disciplines as program evaluation and social policy, and Perhaps paradoxically, Management Information Systems, Where There is Continual debate over the relative virtue and values of different forms of research and action spread around different or “value-free” activity (frequently associated with “responsible” and “deterministic public policy philosophies”), and contrasted with more interpretive and “driven driven viewpoints”. Community informatics would in fact probably benefit from closer knowledge of, and relationship to, theorists, practitioners, and practice.

A further concern is the potential for “hijacked” by policy or academic agendas, rather than being driven by community goals, both in developed and developing countries. The ethics of technology intervention in indigenous or other communities has not been adequately explored, even though ICTs are being looked upon as an important tool for social and economic development in such communities. [29]Moreover, neither explicit noriological positions nor ideological positioning has yet emerged. Many projects appear to be developed with no particular disciplinary affiliation, or more directly with the grassroots (or working with the grassroots) identify ICT as possible resources to respond to local issues, problems or opportunities. The papers and published results on the wiki of the October 2006 Prato conferencehow do you feel about the social, rather than the technical issues? the nature of authentic or manufactured community; ethical frameworks; or the politics of community research.

A different strain of criticism has emerged from gender studies. Some theorists have argued that feminist contributions to the field have yet to be fully acknowledged. [30] This is the presence of several gender-oriented studies and leadership roles played by women in community informatics initiatives. [31]

Research and practice interests

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Research and practice ranges from purely virtual communities; to situations in which virtual communication is used to enhance existing communities in urban, rural, or remote geographical locations; social media, environmental management, media and “content” production, public management and e-governance among others. A central concern, although it is not implemented with “enabling” or “empowering” communities with ICT that is, ensuring that the technology is available for the community. This further implies an approach to development which is more “bottom up” than “top down”.

Areas of concern of small-scale projects in particular communities or organizations which may be of interest to a handful of people, such as telecentres ; an on online community of disabled people; Maori families in New Zealand. Maori families in New Zealand. The Gates Foundation has been active in supporting countries in Chile. An area of ​​growing interest in the use of ICT as a means to enhance citizen engagement as an “e-Governance” counterpart (or counterweight) to transaction oriented initiatives.

A key conceptual element and framing concept for Community Informatics is that of “effective use” by Michael Gurstein in a critique of a pre-occupation research with the Digital Divide ICT “access”. [32] CI is concerned with how ICTs are used in practice and not simply facilitating “access” to them and the notion of “effective use” is a bridge between CI research and CI (enabling programs and supportive programs for effective use and implementation of local communities.

Another way to understand CI is Clement and Shade’s “access rainbow” (Clement and Shade 2000). [14]It is important that the insignificant specialized connectedness to the Internet is not assured that it will be more effective and more effective. It is a multi-layered socio-specialized model for universal access to ICTs. It is displayed as seven layers, starting with the fundamental technical components of connectedness and moving upward layers that inexorably push the essential social framework of access. The seven layers are: 1. Carriage 2. Devices 3. Internet software tools 4. Content / services 5. Service / access 6. Literacy / social facilitation 7. Governance. [14]Even though they are important, the most important is the content / service layer in the middle, since this is where the actual utility is most direct. The upper layers focus on social dimensions and the lower layers focus on technical aspects. [14]

Many practitioners would argue that they would have to argue that they would have to be irrelevant to grassroots activity, which would have to be beyond the control of traditional institutions, or simply irrelevant to practical local goals.

Some of the commonalities and differences may be in fact due to national and cultural differences. For example, the ability of many North American (and particularly US) universities to engage in service learning as part of a long-standing tradition away from elsewhere. The tradition of service learning is almost entirely absent in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, where the State has traditionally played a much stronger role in the delivery of community services and information.

In some countries such as the UK, there is a tradition based on grassroots community technology, for example in Manchester, or in Hebden Bridge . In Italy and the Netherlands, there is a strong connection between the development of local civic networks based on a tradition of civic opposition, connected to the work of progressive academics.

In Latin America, Africa, and many parts of Asia these efforts have been driven by other countries. However, these efforts have become more “indigenized” (and particularly in Latin America) and “bottom-up” ICT efforts are increasingly playing a role in defining the future of ICT within local communities.

In Canada, The Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN) was established in 2003. Their goal is to explore and record the status of CI activities in Canada. It is a research partnership between scholastics, specialists, and public sector delegates. [14]


There are many international and international networks of researchers and practitioners in the field of informatics and community networking. The past decade has also seen conferences in many countries, and there is an emerging literature for theoreticians and practitioners of the online Journal of Community Informatics. [33]

It is surprising in fact, how much in common is found when people from developed and non-developed countries meet. A common theme is the struggle to convince policy makers of the legitimacy of this approach to developing electronically literate societies, instead of a top-down or trickle-down approach, or an approach dominated by technical, rather than social solutions which in the end, tend to help vendors rather than communities. A common criticism that is being raised among participants in the field of practice, and the need for it to be a focus on technical solutions. technology.

The field tends to have a progressive bent, being concerned about the use of technology and social development connected to a desire for capacity building or expanding social capital , and a number of countries, governments and foundations have funded a variety of community informatics A project for the study of social and economic planning, but the study of social and economic planning is particularly important.

Public libraries and community networks

Even though there are similarities in various ways, there are some obstacles that make up the future of cooperation. Albeit both CNs and libraries are concerned with giving information to the society, an exchange is by all accounts lacking between the two communities. The mission of libraries is more often than not, with their views to manage people and different institutes, their methodology can be to some degree unbending. Thusly, CN specialists, while institutionally more adaptable, rush to expel the part of public libraries in the community, tending to see the library. Public libraries have a long-standing custom of association with their communities,[14]

See also

  • Circuit rider (technology)
  • Community Memory
  • Digital divide
  • Informatics
  • Information and communication technologies for development
  • Living lab
  • Nonprofit technology
  • Piazza Telematica
  • Social Study of Information Systems
  • Social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE)
  • Social informatics
  • Social information processing theory
  • Sociology of the Internet
  • Urban informatics


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