New Digital Advancement Municipal Index shows the importance of digital access for U.S. cities' prosperity

·6 min read
  • The Digital Advancement Municipal Index uses 16 key indicators to profile U.S. cities' prosperity in the digital economy.

  • The index provides a resource for cities and states to uncover opportunities for targeted action as they prepare to respond to historic federal investments in broadband infrastructure and digital equity.

  • The index shows that while digital access and adoption are foundations for a vibrant city, they work jointly with other factors to improve quality of life.

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Centri Tech Foundation launched the Digital Advancement Municipal Index (Muni Index), which uses 16 indicators from four categories – technology, socioeconomics, education, and housing – to capture and compare a city's overall prosperity and digital equity metrics across 308 U.S. cities with populations over 100,000 people.

Digital Advancement Municipal Index tool shows the impact of digital infrastructure on U.S. cities' overall prosperity

The interactive digital tool offers city leaders seeking to achieve digital advancement a clearer perspective on the greatest opportunities to drive impact in their communities.

"The Digital Advancement Municipal Index is an excellent resource for cities across the country," said Juliet Fink-Yates, the digital inclusion manager for the City of Philadelphia's Office of Innovation and Technology. "Philadelphia has made great strides to increase digital equity, and we're building on that progress with a 5-year plan to expand digital access across every neighborhood in the city. This index is a great tool to help us get there."

To measure technological advancement in each city, the Muni Index employs four metrics: average download speeds for households in a zip code or county, share of households with a desktop/laptop computer, share of households with broadband subscriptions, and percent of households with only a cellular plan and no other subscription. But access to technology alone does not automatically have a positive impact on a city's score; the extent to which digital inequities persist also matters. For example, the share of households with "cell only" access has a much greater negative impact on a city's score than greater speeds have a positive impact.

"Cities bring different assets to the table in fostering people's capacity to use digital tools to improve their lives. This index shines a light on cities' relative strengths and weaknesses as they embark on improving constituents' digital readiness. Users will not only understand levels of tech adoption, but also how they interact with other social challenges, such as housing affordability and a history of residential segregation," said Dr. John B. Horrigan, senior fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society and designer of the index.

The Muni Index is based on the premise that expansion in the availability, affordability, adoption, and quality of digital tools is essential to building a strong foundation for a vibrant and growing city. Yet digital access alone will not lead to better outcomes. The Muni Index demonstrates that how cities invest in technology works jointly alongside other factors that influence quality of life. It is this leverage of technology toward prosperity that defines Digital Advancement.

"Digital advancement aims to promote a genuinely inclusive digital economy, of which the impacts can be measured well beyond technology metrics. Access affects all facets of life today, from healthcare to education," said Laura Mueller-Soppart, program director at Centri Tech Foundation and co-designer of the index.

The insights drawn from the Muni Index, which is based on publicly available data sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Microsoft broadband usage data, invite users to explore the relationships between a range of factors. For example, ensuring children have health insurance has a strong impact on a city's index score. Furthermore, cities with lower rates of residential segregation and a higher share of foreign-born residents have significantly higher-than-average scores.

By design, all indicators chosen for the index impact a city's overall score and none of the indicators are weighted. The mission of the Muni Index is to offer decision-makers a tool that helps shape holistic strategies that can deliver the greatest positive impact for city residents and regional neighbors.

"As the historic federal investments in broadband infrastructure and digital equity begin to open up, we're pleased to introduce the Muni Index as a resource for strategic planning," said Marta Urquilla, president of Centri Tech Foundation. "Cities and local coalitions have been working to address digital access, many long before the pandemic, and require added investment to expand their efforts. States are eager to collect data and develop competitive plans to attract federal dollars. The index offers a tool to help leaders maximize this once-in-a-lifetime investment, recognizing that digital advancement is essential to our shared prosperity."

Centri Tech Foundation's aim for the Muni Index is to leverage actionable data in service of its mission to promote an inclusive digital economy and achieve a future where everyone can fulfill their aspirations and thrive. The index is intended to facilitate the convening of stakeholders in building this future and set a baseline by which to study and measure progress. All the data that powers the tool is available for download to encourage research exercises to inform digital equity strategies throughout the U.S..

The Digital Advancement Municipal Index is an ongoing effort that is updated annually, as data sources permit. For more information and to provide feedback, visit www.digitaladvancement.org.

Methodology (2016-2019):
The Digital Advancement Municipal Index was developed using data from the American Community Survey and other sources to capture characteristics of 308 of the largest U.S. cities. The index is made up of 16 indicators, 4 each from the following categories: Technology, Socioeconomics, Education, and Housing. The mean of each indicator is normalized to 100. The category scores are composed by taking the mean of the four indicators within each category. A city's total Digital Advancement score is composed by taking the mean of all four of its category scores.

For the full methodology, visit www.digitaladvancement.org.

About Centri Tech Foundation
Centri Tech Foundation (CTF), along with a network of community development partners, seeks to connect low-income people to high-quality connectivity in the home and to resources that improve economic, health and livelihood outcomes in the digital economy. We believe digital advancement is a civil right. To achieve a sustainable future, one where everyone can fulfill their aspirations and thrive, requires an inclusive digital economy. Learn more at centritechfdn.org and follow @centritechfdn on social media.

About John B. Horrigan:
John B. Horrigan, PhD, is Senior Fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, with a focus on technology adoption and digital inclusion. Dr. Horrigan has also been a senior advisor to the Urban Libraries Council and a senior fellow to the Technology Policy Institute. Additionally, he has served as an Associate Director for Research at the Pew Research Center, where he focused on libraries and their impact on communities, as well as technology adoption patterns and open government data. During the Obama Administration, Dr. Horrigan served on the leadership team at the Federal Communications Commission for the development of the National Broadband Plan.

Contact: Connie Jones, (850) 519-2912

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SOURCE Centri Tech Foundation