Louisville, Ky., Combines Digital Inclusion, Human-Centered Design Into One Jam Session

The Louisville Digital Inclusion Design Jam will help city technologists learn from design practices while helping designers use their skills to benefit the community.

by / October 16, 2018

Louisville, Ky., is hosting a seemingly new type of event that it’s calling a Digital Inclusion Design Jam, which essentially combines municipal digital equity efforts with expertise from local designers.

Officially dubbed the Louisville Digital Inclusion Design Jam, sign-up for the event is going on now. The event is a joint effort between Louisville IxDA, which is a heavily design-focused civic tech group, and the city, specifically the Louisville Metro Government’s Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation, with help as well from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. The actual jam is to be held Nov. 17, and in the lead-up, the city is asking volunteers to help conduct user-centered research that will help shape the work done that day.

Ed Blayney, the city’s civic technology manager, has long been engaged with digital inclusion efforts in Louisville, and during a recent phone conversation, he said the upcoming jam event has a few different related goals.

“We go around and do a lot of promotion of digital inclusion work,” Blayney said. “There’s a lot of people who know that digital inclusion is going on, but they haven’t thought about it comprehensively.”

The jam is intended, in part, to change that and deepen the focus on digital inclusion. Blayney said there are also many groups and individuals in Louisville who are interested in helping with digital inclusion efforts — which largely entail all work to increase digital skills, literacy and access among residents — and the jam seeks to give them a tangible and direct way to do that, especially for designers. It’s essentially a new spin on a familiar concept.

“Hackathons are something we’ve deployed regularly,” Blayney said. “So, I was thinking about what does a hackathon look like with designers.”

The most specific objective for this jam is creating a form that makes it easier for folks who don’t have high speed Internet to sign up, to remove as many barriers as possible for them. Louisville has in the past held sign-up events aimed at doing this, and in the process it became evident that a more efficient application process would be a big help.

It’s not just about redesigning the form though. Indeed, the form is the front line. However, the research and design associated with this design also seeks to remove barriers from the application process holistically, making it so applicants get a clearer idea of when and how a decision about their access will be coming.

This will entail field research — a key component of human-centered design — leading up to the actual design date. Participating in this process, Blayney said, is also part of why the city is doing all of this.

“Part of this is also professional development for me and for our team,” he said, “starting to think about what does good user-centered design research look like, and partnering with these people who are designers to teach us how to do this with this specific project.”

Basically, as society continues to digitize, municipal governments must increasingly embrace human-centered design while also accelerating their efforts to foster better digital inclusion in their jurisdictions. With this in mind, events like the Digital Inclusion Design Jam in Louisville may become as commonplace as volunteer hackathons are, happening across the country in most (if not all) major cities.

Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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