In memory of Michael Gurstein

October 17, 2017

Michael was one of the founders of CSISAC, an active contributor, a member of the CSISAC Steering Committee, and one of the drafters of the Seoul Declaration. Michael developed the concept of "community informatics," reflecting his belief that local communities and not large organizations should shape their digital destinies. As the post below explains, "Mike was motivated by his commitment to democratising access to the tools of information technology and the advancement of civil society."

Michael Gurstein October 2, 1944 - October 8, 2017

Michael Gurstein was born on October 2, 1944 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Emanuel (Manny) and Sylvia Gurstein. While still an infant, the family moved to Melfort, Saskatchewan where Manny grew up and his family still lived. In Mike's youth, Manny and Sylvia ran a successful retail store. There, the family grew with a younger sister, Penny.

Mike excelled at school. He spent his summers working at a golf club in Waskesiu and graduated from Melfort Composite Collegiate Institute high school, and then completed an undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Mike was driven by pragmatism and curiosity about the wider world that motivated his doctoral studies in Sociology at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.

While a student, he began his life-long exploration of the world, with trips through North Africa and a long journey from Southeast Asia through Afghanistan and Iran and back to the U.K. Upon Mike's return to Canada, he worked in politics and policy, as a senior civil servant for the Province of British Columbia under Barrett's NDP government (1972-4) and for the Province of Saskatchewan under Blakeney's NDP Government (1974-5). While teaching at York University, he ran for the NDP in the riding of Parkdale.

Mike moved to Ottawa in the late 1970s where he met his wife, Fernande Faulkner. Together they had two children, Rachel (1981) and Marc (1983). He and Fernande established and ran a management consulting firm, Socioscope, which studied and guided the social aspects of the introduction of information communication technology. In Ottawa, Mike also built and managed a real estate portfolio.

In 1992 the family moved to New York, where Mike and Fernande worked for the United Nations. In 1995, Mike became Associate Chair in the Management of Technological Change at the University College of Cape Breton. There, he founded the Centre for Community and Enterprise Networking (C/CEN) as a community based research laboratory exploring applications of ICT to support social change in one of Canada's most economically disadvantaged regions. Grown out of his early experience in rural small town Saskatchewan and his later experiences in impoverished but culturally and communally rich Cape Breton,

Mike's work provided the conceptual framing for "community informatics". He published the first major work in the 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 Mike'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".

In 1999, the family moved to Vancouver to be closer to Mike's parents and sister. In 2000, Mike and Fernande returned to New York, to work at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the UN, respectively. Mike returned to Vancouver in 2006 and established the Center for Community Informatics Research Development and Training (CCIRDT). With this platform, he traveled the world to consult with governments and civil society organisations, present at conferences, and conduct research. Mike was the founding editor of the Journal of Community Informatics and was Foundation Chair of the Community Informatics Research Network.

He was at the time of his death the Executive Director of CCIRDT, and formerly an Adjunct Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies Vancouver Canada, and as well as Research Professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey, and Research Professor at the University of Quebec (Outaouais). He was also a member of the High Level Panel of Advisers of the UN's Global Alliance for ICT and Development. 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 was 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.

Through all of his work, Mike was motivated by his commitment to democratising access to the tools of information technology and the advancement of civil society.

Mike passed away peacefully at home on October 8 after a two year battle with prostate cancer. He is survived by his wife Fernande, his mother Sylvia, his sister Penny, his children Rachel and Marc, his step-children Bruno and Nina, his grandchildren Emmanuelle and Daniel, step grandchildren Patrick, Emilly, Jessica and Erica, and niece, Natasha.