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Minneapolis digital divide study sparks lively discussion, more to come
As 25-30 concerned Minneapolitans gathered at Northeast Library, their concerns about tackling the digital divide stirred more passion than the stated purpose of the meeting: to learn the results of a recent survey of the city’s digital inclusion status. A prevailing theme throughout the presentation and the discussion was the need for collaboration among agencies and organizations to assure that the Internet does not offer have nots just one more resource to not have.
This was the first of four public meetings to share and discuss the survey process and implications. Otto Doll from the City of Minneapolis Information Technology department kicked off the discussion with an informative power point report on the recently released Community Technology Survey, a profile of Minneapolis residents’ access to the tools and skills of “digital inclusion” for individuals and families, “digital justice” for the community.
Doll explained the intent and principles of the study, including a diagram showing stages of development from physical access to equipment, to technology literacy, to a public embrace of a digitally-inclusive community. The presentation offered helpful graphics which included maps of the areas of the city depicted in terms of basic access to the Internet and practical uses of web technology as well as bar charts that illustrate the state of digital inclusion by gender, race and ethnicity, education and income.
The digital inclusion survey, conducted under contract with the city by the National Research Center, Inc. was mailed to 80,000 Minneapolis residents clustered into eleven communities. The 30% response rate reflects 2,578 completed surveys with a margin of error at a plus or minus nine percent. Results were weighted to reflect the 2012 Census profile within each of the communities and with the city at large. Residents whose first language is Spanish, Somali or Hmong were able to request a survey in their preferred language.
Bottom line: The survey portrays a city in which digital inclusion matches with existing socio-economic realities. While 82% of the city’s households have computer with internet access, only 57% of Phillips and 65% of Near North residents have access at home; 25% of African Americans reported they do not have Internet access in the home.
Across the board, most residents report that they are not aware of the city’s wifi network, a hot topic a decade ago when Minneapolis signed a major contract with U.S. Internet to build the wifi system.
When the presenter opened the floor for questions, hands waved, voices raised, and suggestions overtook questions as one speaker after another offered a range of ideas for creating a digitally inclusive city. Though Doll tried with minimal success to explain that the survey was a measure of what is, not an action plan for what could and should be, the ideas flowed from attendees, the majority of whom brought to the table extensive life experience working to stem the digital divide. Several indicated that they were involved with the Technology Literacy Collaborative, a network of digital inclusion supporters.
The statistics, graphics and conclusions of the survey are available online for interested individuals and organizations. Print resources will also be shared at future public meetings which are scheduled for:
- Monday, June 18, McRae Park, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
- Tuesday, June 19, North Regional Library, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, June 27, Waite House-Phillips Community Center, 4:30-6:00 p.m.
The city has provided the massive survey results, including the full data set, on the City of Minneapolis website. Questions or requests for additional information can be addressed to Elise Ebhardt at elise [dot] ebhardt [at] minneapolismn [dot] gov or 612 673 2026.