Michael Gurstein, Ph.D. (born 1944 in Edmonton, Alberta) is a Canadian best known for his work in the development and definition of community informatics as the area of research and practice concerned with enabling and empowering communities through the use of Information and Communications Technology. A native of Edmonton, Alberta, but grew up in Melfort, Saskatchewan and did his first degree at the University of Saskatchewan in Philosophy and Politics. Gurstein holds a PhD in Social Science from Cambridge University.

Early Working Life

Gurstein worked as a senior civil servant for the Province of British Columbia (1972-4) and for the Province of Saskatchewan (Department of Northern Saskatchewan) 1974-5. He then established and ran a Management Consulting firm, Socioscope, undertaking research linking organizations to information technology. While working as a Management Adviser at the United Nations in New York (1992-5) he was offered a post as Associate Chair in the Management of Technological Change at the University College of Cape Breton. While on Cape Breton Island he founded the Centre for Community and Enterprise Networking (C/CEN) as a community based research laboratory (what has now come to be known as a Living Lab) exploring possible applications of Information and Communications Technologies to support social change in what was then one of Canada's most economically disadvantaged regions. C/CEN, established in 1996, was a pioneer in among other areas online conference management (and did the first online conference with simultaneous translation using IRC and court translators to provide text translation in French simultaneous to the direct meeting being transcribed in English). The Centre also undertook the first NetCorps placement (in Angola) as well as providing on-line support to the local Cape Breton music industry [1].

Community Informatics

Gurstein's book Community Informatics: Enabling Communities with Information and Communications Technologies (Idea Group, 2000) and the conceptual framing for Community Informatics grew out of his experiences in Cape Breton. The book was the first major publication in the Community Informatics field and introduced the term "Community Informatics" into wider usage as referring to the research and praxis discipline underpinning the social appropriation of ICT. Within the area of Community Informatics a major contribution has been Gurstein's introduction of the notion of "effective use" as a critical analytical framework for assessing technology implementation superseding approaches based on the more commonly accepted frameworks such as that of the "Digital Divide". A co-edited book Connecting Canadians: Investigations in Community Informatics [2] was published in 2012 based on the work of the major Community Informatics research project—Community Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN)[3] of which he was a co-Principal Investigator.

Current Activities--Academic and Civil Society

He is the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Community Informatics [4], was Foundation Chair of the Community Informatics Research Network [5] and moderates the Community Informatics [6] and Community Informatics Researchers [7] e-lists. He is currently the Executive Director of the Centre for Community Informatics Research, Development and Training [8], an Adjunct Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies [9] in Vancouver Canada, and was formerly Research Professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey, and Research Professor at the University of Quebec (Outaouais). He is also a member of the High Level Panel of Advisers of the UN's Global Alliance for ICT and Development. [10]. He has also served on the Board of the Global Telecentre Alliance, Telecommunities Canada, the Pacific Community Networking Association and the Vancouver Community Net.

In recent years he has become active as a commentator, speaker and essayist/blogger articulating a Community Informatics (grassroots ICT user) perspective in the areas of Open Government Data and Internet Governance.


Gurstein is now writing an influential Community Informatics blog at http://gurstein.wordpress.com and tweets at @MichaelGurstein.

Principal Publications

  • Clement, A., Gurstein, M., Longford, G., Moll, M. and Shade, L.R. (eds) Connecting Canadians: Investigations in Community Informatics, Athabaska University Press, 2012 [11]
  • Gurstein, M. What is Community Informatics (and Why Does It Matter)?. Polimetrica, 2007 [12]
  • Gurstein, M. (Ed.) Community Informatics: Enabling Communities with Information and Communications Technologies, Idea Group Publishing, Hershey PA, 2000
  • “Effective Use: A Community Informatics Strategy Beyond the Digital Divide”, First Monday, December 2003. [13] (translated into Russian and Spanish)
  • "Flexible Networking, Information and Communications Technology and Local Economic Development", First Monday, Feb. 1999 [14].
  • Gurstein M., and Civille, R., Towards a Citizen’s Technology: Final Report to the Ford Foundation on a Sector Analysis of the Community Informatics Systems Sector, 2004.
  • Gurstein M., Menou M., and Stafeev S., (Eds.) Community Networking and Community Informatics: Prospects, Approaches and Instruments. Part 1: Global Experience St. Petersburg, CCNS, 2003 (English and Russian)