Shauna Edson | Movers & Shakers 2020–Advocates

As a single mom juggling three part-time jobs from 2010–14 while working on an undergraduate degree, Shauna Edson also faced the barriers created by the lack of internet in her apartment. "To turn in assignments, access readings, and do everything else students need to do online, I had to go to a public computer lab," Edson says.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Digital Inclusion Coordinator, SLCPL; Chair and Cofounder, UCC, Salt Lake City Public Library; Utah Community Connect, Salt Lake City

DEGREE

MS, University of Utah, 2019

FAST FACT

Contributor to Tech for All: Moving Beyond the Digital Divide, ed. by Lauren Comito (LITA Guides, 2019)

FOLLOW

@descansostreet; linkedin.com/in/shaunamcniven
utahcc.org; digitalinclusion.org

Photo by Bob Schatz

 

Game Changer

As a single mom juggling three part-time jobs from 2010–14 while working on an undergraduate degree, Shauna Edson also faced the barriers created by the lack of internet in her apartment. "To turn in assignments, access readings, and do everything else students need to do online, I had to go to a public computer lab," Edson says.

Though her situation has changed, those experiences inform her work as the Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL) digital inclusion coordinator and as cofounder and chair of Utah Community Connect (UCC), an alliance of libraries, colleges, housing authorities, government agencies, and nonprofits that work to close the digital divide. The alliance provides a network to increase collaboration and coordination, raise awareness of the digital divide in Utah, support digital equity programs, and identify opportunities to provide access to devices, broadband internet, and digital literacy training.

Edson emphasizes that digital equity does not occur in a vacuum. "Because digital equity is not a one-size-fits-all paradigm, I quickly learned it is essential to get to know the communities you serve at a micro-level," she says. Both SLCPL and UCC rely on strategic partnerships with community groups that have a track record for serving the underrepresented, including seniors, refugees, immigrants, and people who are homeless or have other barriers to access. In one partnership, for instance, PCs for People distributed refurbished computers in 2017 to 96 mostly Latinx families in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City.

The alliance’s impact can be seen in Salt Lake City and Provo’s moves to adopt digital inclusion policies. Educating community leaders about the economic impact of the digital divide has helped lay groundwork for creating equitable digital access, Edson says. To that end, she spearheaded a statewide digital summit in 2019 that brought together hundreds of leaders. Nationally, she led planning for Digital Inclusion Week, sponsored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Google Fiber, growing it from 12 events around the United States in 2018 to 60 in 2019.

"Shauna’s role…has been game-changing in bringing stakeholders and influencers together to focus on digital equity issues," says SLCPL Executive Director Peter Bromberg (a 2010 Mover & Shaker).

It has also helped position the library as a trusted leader in the digital equity space. "Shauna…can vision, plan, execute, assess…. But [her] X factor, her superpower, is the ability to bring many people together around a shared vision to work…for a larger public good," says Bromberg. 

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