FM reviews
First Monday


Clement Andrew Clement, Michael Gurstein, Graham Longford, Marita Moll, and Leslie Regan Shade (editors).
Connecting Canadians: Investigations in community informatics.
Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2012.
paper, 506 pp., ISBN 978-1–926–83604–1, US$34.95.
Athabasca University Press:



The Canadian government has been promoting the knowledge–based economy across the nation since the 1990s, and placed emphasis on achieving a “connected Canada”. Such motion means all citizens, including those living in rural and remote communities, would have access to the Internet, on which production and consumption activities are more and more depending.

Under these circumstances, Connecting Canadians: Investigations in community informatics illustrates the work of the Community Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN) in studying community informatics, a multi–disciplinary method to the utilization of information and communications technologies (ICT) for various communities.

This book discusses how Canadian civil society groups from coast to coast sought to enable local communities to develop on their own terms within the broader context of federal or provincial initiatives and policies. Many government–funded programs, such as bringing broadband to under–served areas and to impart needed computer skills, are thoroughly evaluated.

At the beginning of the book, the editors introduce us to the conceptual framework for the community informatics, which provides accessible background knowledge for students and other novice readers in this field. The difference between Canadian and U.S. broadband policies, the characteristics of community network users are also investigated.

The following sections discuss community innovation issues through four case studies, which cover community service participation and inclusion, as well as wireless networking issues in some major Canadian cities (e.g., Vancouver and Montreal). The book then reports the progress of broadband services in four rural or remote areas of Canada.

Libraries and community networks as well as the public policy topics are listed at the end of the book. The three appendixes serve as helpful reference guide for us to explore community informatics studies and resources online.

Connecting Canadians: Investigations in community informatics examines the role of community informatics, or community–based ICT initiatives, in the process of “great transition” in Canada. It provides balanced and well–researched materials, to help current and potential practitioners establish their own comprehensive guideline for community informatics studies.

This book is edited by a group of Canadian scholars from universities and other institutions. All of the authors are from the fields of information studies. Essays in this book not only document specific local initiatives but analyze the overall trajectory of the government’s vision of a digitally inclusive Canada, which establishes principles for regions with under–served population to follow.

Work of CRACIN systematically studied Canadian community ICT issues, drawing perspectives from sociology, computer science, critical theory, library and information sciences, as well as management and women’s studies, to bear on networking technologies. Such in–depth research is an essential resource for NGOs, governments, and the private sector around the world.

As an instructor of library and information science, I would like to propose two new essays for this book. The first one should explore the health informatics issue for the connected Canadians, and the second one may cover the crisis informatics studies in Canada. Although this book focuses on community informatics research, the proposed papers could further enrich its content and offer more insights on improving information services in the local communities.

Overall, I believe Connecting Canadians: Investigations in community informatics does what a good reference book should do, and I recommend it to our readers from the fields of library and information science, management, sociology, as well as government policy studies. — Yijun Gao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University. End of article

Copyright © 2012, First Monday.

Review of Connecting Canadians: Investigations in community informatics
by Yijun Gao.
First Monday, Volume 17, Number 11 - 5 November 2012

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

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