Minnesota Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment Report (including COVID impact)

Literacy Minnesota recent release a statewide report on digital equity needs (by county). The report looks at three questions:

  • What counties have high digital access, economic, education and English language learning needs?
  • How have organizations adapted to the pandemic and addressed digital access needs in their communities, who do they serve, and which counties are served?
  • How would a statewide Digital Navigator Program complement available resources and sustainably solve persistent problems?

County Ranking on Highest Needs

The report ranks county based on high priority needs (defined by unemployment, ow wages, low English attainment, access to broadband a computer and more). They present the information in a way that is difficult to share electronically, but I’ve copied the ranking. Here are the counties in greatest need of help. (I’ll paste the full list at the and of this post.)  They have color coded the layers of ranking; I’ve tried to replicate that with bold/not bold. Each change represents a new tier of ranking.

  1. Nobles
  2. Watonwan
  3. Lake of the Woods
  4. Aitkin
  5. Beltrami
  6. Wadena
  7. Mahnomen
  8. Pine
  9. Kandiyohi
  10. Mower
  11. Mille Lacs
  12. Ramsey

Organizational changed due to COVID

Literacy Minnesota surveyed organizations…

The majority of organizations that responded to Literacy Minnesota’s Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment survey shifted to remote programming and services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 80% of responses to Literacy Minnesota’s Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment Survey reported that their organization had shifted to distanced or virtual platforms, while about 20% of organizations shut down services. About 40% of organizations made new partnerships and 50% of organizations added services. Among services added, more than 60% distributed devices, 56% helped people access the internet and 47% offered digital literacy services. The Survey was sent to about 700 ABE organizations, broadband providers, CareerForce centers, community organizations, government officials, libraries, nonprofits and schools on November 1, 2020. By November 22, 294 organizations had responded to the Survey — a response rate greater than 42%.

Digital Navigator Recommendations

Literacy Minnesota recommends a learner-centered approach to digital navigation and digital literacy learning, like the learner-centered approach that it applies in ABE, its AmeriCorps VISTA national service program and its trainings and webinars. The agency recommends that organizations holding public trust host digital navigators. Community-based organizations and libraries represent excellent potential host sites for a statewide Digital Navigation Program in Minnesota. The agency also recommends that the Digital Navigator Program utilize the Northstar Digital Literacy program of Literacy Minnesota, which represents the leading technology in digital literacy learning and is available at multiple locations in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties through ABE, libraries, and workforce centers. Literacy Minnesota’s nearly 50 years of ABE experience as well as its emerging digital equity efforts and expertise, like the Ramsey County TechPak Program, a CARES Act project with Hennepin County, and its Open Door Learning Center equity efforts, inform these recommendations.

For folks who are interested in talking more about Digital Navigators, the Blandin Foundation is hosting a “lunch bunch” conversation on Feb 24 from noon to 1pm (CST).

 Below is the full ranking of county by need.

  1. Nobles
  2. Watonwan
  3. Lake of the Woods
  4. Aitkin
  5. Beltrami
  6. Wadena
  7. Mahnomen
  8. Pine
  9. Kandiyohi
  10. Mower
  11. Mille Lacs
  12. Ramsey
  13. Cass
  14. Grant
  15. Traverse
  16. Pope
  17. Renville
  18. Freeborn
  19. Redwood
  20. Roseau
  21. Swift
  22. Kanabec
  23. Koochiching
  24. Lake
  25. Morrison
  26. Otter Tail
  27. Todd
  28. Wilkin
  29. Rice
  30. Benton
  31. Blue Earth
  32. Stearns
  33. Carlton
  34. Hennepin
  35. Sibley
  36. Louis
  37. Big Stone
  38. Cook
  39. Kittson
  40. Lac qui Parle
  41. Lincoln
  42. Yellow Medicine
  43. Clearwater
  44. Marshall
  45. Martin
  46. Norman
  47. Red Lake
  48. Chippewa
  49. Cottonwood
  50. Stevens
  51. Becker
  52. Brown
  53. Douglas
  54. Faribault
  55. Itasca
  56. Meeker
  57. Pennington
  58. Pipestone
  59. Rock
  60. Waseca
  61. Steele
  62. Winona
  63. Fillmore
  64. Olmsted
  65. Polk
  66. Wabasha
  67. Anoka
  68. Dakota
  69. Isanti
  70. Murray
  71. Hubbard
  72. Jackson
  73. Lyon
  74. McLeod
  75. Crow Wing
  76. Goodhue
  77. Clay
  78. Houston
  79. Nicollet
  80. Scott
  81. Chisago
  82. Le Sueur
  83. Sherburne
  84. Wright
  85. Dodge
  86. Carver
  87. Washington
This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Research and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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