Growing up in the Bronx, Dr. Dane Dell always loved technology and how it could improve people’s lives. He remembers working on computers in high school, using the Internet when it was still fairly new and seeing a new social media site called Facebook in college. Now a father of two kids under 5, he watches in amazement as they grasp new technology so quickly.
“They’re like wizards at using the iPad and the phone. It’s amazing to see how they’ve just picked that up,” he said. “But I’m also trying to think of ways to foster interest in technology for them in a healthy way.”
As the director of information systems for the Onondaga County Public Library System in New York, Dell knows firsthand how important technology can be to people’s lives. He has made it his mission to give his community equitable access to information and communication technology.
“The digital divide is not just a technological issue, it’s also a social justice issue,” said Dell, who graduated from Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies with a master of science in information management in 2011 and a doctorate of philosophy in information science and technology in 2017.
“It definitely is a social justice issue. I do believe that,” he added. “Having affordable Internet is really a utility. I think it should be treated like electricity or water.”
Dell has worked with Onondaga County libraries since 2018. In his role, he oversees the enterprise system that connects all 32 libraries in the county and supervises the IT staff that serves and manages the technology infrastructure of the City of Syracuse libraries.
As a manager, he seeks out and oversees projects aimed at improving computer literacy and access to information – two areas that he sees as essential to improving the most impoverished communities.
“I’m originally from a third-world country, Jamaica, so naturally I just think about how these kinds of infrastructural resources can be a big boost for people’s lives and their well being,” Dell said. “I recognize how having access to computers and the Internet played a factor in how easy it was to do things in school. You just noticed a difference in the quality of life of what you’re able to do.”
Before coming to Syracuse, Dell graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York with a bachelor’s degree in information technology and psychology. Throughout his years in college, he devoted his studies to understanding issues related to the digital divide and how to help communities without access to technology, as well as the success and failure of large scale information system projects.
Previously, Dell served as a coding instructor and presenter for programs and conferences such as “Men in Stem,” “The Blackman Can Institute,” and the “Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP).” He also taught several technology courses at Syracuse’s iSchool.
Dell advises Syracuse students hoping to follow a similar path as his to network, go to job fairs, reach out to alumni and develop relationships. That will help students figure out how they fit into the vast IT world.
“Exposure is so important,” he said. “You can really end up doing anything.”
Dell is proud of his time at Syracuse and says it was his dream to attend college there. Growing up in the Bronx, he saw Syracuse’s branding everywhere and knew it was a stellar school.
“It was the number one iSchool,” he said. “So I was thrilled to pick Syracuse and for Syracuse to happen.”