One of the more forward thinking efforts stemming from the Minneapolis city government as it relates to technology is the annual Community Technology Survey.
Introduced in 2012, the Community Technology Survey is orchestrated by the City of Minneapolis’ IT policy sub committee under the guidance of CIO Otto Doll.
This ~$50k research initiative aims to “Inform the City’s efforts to overcome the digital equity gap between individuals and groups in their access to and use of technology, and provide data to measure changes in the community over time.”
The approach involved randomly snail mailing a survey to 12,300 households across 11 different communities within Minneapolis last January. Twenty-five percent, or just over 3,000 responded, which is consistent with previous response rates.
Factoring in a margin of error, the top-line measurement remains relatively unchanged: in 2013 it was noted that 16% of Minneapolis was not online (defined as a home computer with Internet access); this year, it was 15%, or approximately 25,000 Minneapolis residents offline.
It comes as no surprise that within that cluster of the disconnected, socio-economic factors are at play — race, age and income are the three biggest elements determining who has access and who doesn’t in Minneapolis. Camden, Near North and Phillips neighborhoods are the least technologically capable, as are households with people >55, income <$25K, and those of American Indian, Hispanic and African American ethnicity.
What’s also consistent with broader cultural trends is the marked increase in mobile devices across the board. Ownership of Internet-enabled mobile phones was up again, from 75% in 2013 to 79% in 2014 and 44% to 54% in terms of Internet-connected tablets.
Whether consumed as raw data or interpreted form this is insightful information on local technology adoption within Minneapolis. It outlines the data and a set of key challenges associated with ‘digital equity’ (first it was digital divide, then digital inclusion, now digital equity).
“As we move further into a technology based society, city government can act as a catalyst to ensure that Minneapolis is a digitally inclusive community so all residents can participate in the benefits of the digital society,” says the concluding collateral.
Whether or not all those who are disconnected actually desire to be online — that equality in the equity sense is achievable — is questionable. Between explicit rejection, implicit lack of perceived value, or just an inherent void of motivation to get online, it’s realistic to conclude that there is no truly equitable answer.
What is certain, however, is that key functions of life do revolve around access to and knowledge of technology and there is marginalization. The more connected Minneapolis is as a city, from the bottom to the top, the better off things will be now and in on the future.
Minneapolis IT and other stakeholders will be hosting a series of community meetings on May 29 and June 17th for those who want get involved in closing the ‘digital equity’ gap by supporting technology access and skills for all. For further information or questions, contact Elise Ebhardt [firstname.lastname@example.org / 612-673-2026].