Communication Technology & Social Change

The communication field has undergone fundamental transformations in recent years. Wireless technologies and the Internet have rendered unprecedented revolutions in digital communication. These transformations have brought with them profound social and economic consequences.

The center’s mission is to examine the social impact of these communication technologies, with the overarching objective of conducting research that can be used to positively impact social issues affecting the world, which has resulted in several significant ongoing projects:

Civic Tech USC
In 2015 CCLP launched a new initiative to examine the intersection of technology, citizenship, and government. Civic Tech USC is a group of researchers and civic hackers exploring how new technologies can help to reimagine civic life and engage everyday people in improving their communities. We study and develop new technologies that promote civic responsibility, transparency, fairness, and participation. In partnership with the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, Civic Tech USC released a new report entitled Empowering the Public Through Open Data: Findings and Recommendations for City Leaders in Los Angeles County. Over the past year, Civic Tech USC’s research team investigated what cities in Los Angeles County are doing to make their government data easily accessible to the public. Cities already collect vast troves of information, such as crime stats, budgets/financial expenditures, code violations, transportation stats, property information, campaign contributions, and more. Open data is a movement that has grown over the past few years to make all that information freely accessible in digital, machine-readable formats so that it can be used, modified, reused, and shared by anyone for any purpose. This, in turn, has the potential to increase transparency, encourage citizen participation, attract new business, and improve government efficiency. The report contains findings and recommendations for city leaders and other open data advocates based on survey responses from 51 of the county’s 88 cities; in-depth interviews with officials from 10 local jurisdictions; a review of existing research about open data from academic, public, and private sectors; and criteria from the U.S. City Open Data Census.

Going forward, Civic Tech USC plans to meet with city officials from across the county to share best practices related to open data, and to launch new investigations into areas of data that are typically left out of open data initiatives and discussions, such as criminal justice, to explore how crime and justice data can be collected and shared in ways that lead to better public policy outcomes. Other Civic Tech USC projects include expanding political participation by helping bridge the gap between civic engagement and voting technology. The first proposal is to study the online voting pilot being run by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils in 2016.

Mobile Phones for Public Service
As part of the Mobile Phones for Public Service initiative, CCLP teamed up with The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands to host a convening of high-profile technology experts, industry leaders, policymakers, and government officials to explore how publicly-funded and distributed mobile devices could be designed to better support health, education and public safety. In May 2015, CCLP submitted a formal comment to the FCC outlining ways in which the Lifeline program could be improved to provide essential emergency services on all Lifeline phones.

At the 2014 Get Mobile Forum, we invited technology leaders and local community organizers to learn from each other, exploring how organizations can use mobile technology in their efforts to engage and empower the communities of Los Angeles. A report generated from that initiative, Lessons Learned from the Get Mobile Forum on Mobile Technology for Community Engagement, outlines the highlights and best practices identified at the Get Mobile Forum, including five guiding principles for implementing mobile technology in community outreach efforts.

Technology & Labor Trafficking
Furthering the work of CCLP’s Technology and Human Trafficking Initiative, former research director Mark Latonero and CCLP published the first comprehensive report on the topic, based on a $130,000 research grant from Humanity United. Mark’s team traveled to the Philippines to conduct field research and investigate online labor recruitment. The report, Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society, released in February 2015, was distributed widely to inform government, NGOs, researchers and the business community on how to improve future interventions in forced labor and exploitation.