Plan Aims for Equal Access to Technology in the Community
The City of Sioux Falls, South Dakota just released a new digital equity framework for the city. They partnered with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the Purdue Center for Regional Development to support a community task force – the Inclusive Digital Equity Alliance (IDEA) – to create the framework.
“Digital equity is about improving the quality of life for every resident and visitor to Sioux Falls,” said the city’s Mayor Paul TenHaken in a statement from the city. “Technology impacts virtually every area of our lives, but for some within our community, however, that impact has made it even more challenging for accessing and utilizing services and resources around the city. Bridging the digital divide should not be considered a luxury, but rather a responsibility we have to our community.”
The IDEA Task Force worked together to identify community assets and gaps such as affordable home broadband options, affordable device options, and basic digital literacy training and support that is available for residents. Further, a community-wide digital inclusion survey was conducted to gain a more detailed view of the needs of the community.
The vision for digital equity in Sioux Falls is to ensure residents have the tools necessary to support education, health, well-being, economic prosperity, and the ability to fully participate in society. They aim to achieve this through universal residential broadband adoption, availability, affordability, devices, technical support, and digital life skills training.
“It’s critically important that all communities assess the barriers to digital inclusion, identify assets and define goals,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director, NDIA. “We are proud to partner with the City of Sioux Falls, the IDEA Task Force, and the Purdue Center for Regional Development in the creation of a digital equity framework to ensure all community members have equal access to and effective use of technology.”
Broadband Access and Adoption
In the City of Sioux Falls, 94% of residents have internet access at home. Three-quarters of residents have cable technology in their homes, and 8.5% utilize DSL, which can result in a slow internet connection. Access to faster broadband technology at home varies with demographics. The cost of broadband service remains a barrier for many, leaving these households with the choice between a smartphone data plan or home internet, but not both.
- One in four homes have no home internet subscription.
- Nearly 10% of households can only access the internet using their mobile phone data plan.
- The share of low-income households with no internet is 10 times higher than wealthier households.
- Older residents are especially likely to be unconnected.
(American Community Survey, 2019)
Limited access to devices is a large barrier to digital inclusion for residents of Sioux Falls. Device access to a desktop or tablet is strongly related to educational attainment and household income.
- More than 95% of respondents reported owning a smartphone. One-third of respondents owned a desktop, and 67% owned a laptop.
- Device ownership is unequal. Consider that almost half of respondents with a high school degree or less owned a laptop compared to 86.3% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- A significantly higher share of respondents with a mobile device (tablet or smartphone) only, but no laptop or desktop, were people of color, less educated, younger, and lower-earning individuals.
Digital Life Skills and Technical Support
To achieve digital equity for Sioux Falls residents they need access to opportunities and training to build both foundational and advanced digital literacy skills.
According to the digital inclusion survey results, there is a community need to provide technical support:
- One-fifth of respondents reported needing help setting up a new device.
- Well educated and higher-income respondents used the internet more than older, less-educated adults.
- Minorities used the internet in more ways than white, non-Hispanic people.
To see the Sioux Falls data finding, Civic Analytics dashboard, and digital equity framework, visit siouxfalls.org/digitalequity.