Back in 2017, Roberto Gallardo was one of the keynote speaker at a Minnesota Broadband conference. He found a way to formulate a Digital Divide Index for each county in Minnesota based on a range of data point especially organized in two categories broadband adoption/infrastructure and socioeconomic factors. He’s done it again looking at county-level data across the United States. The map below will give you an idea of how Minnesota compares. (The brighter the color, the brighter the digital equity outlook.)
We can also see a marked urban/rural divide as he points out…
These groups were then utilized to analyze a host of other variables to better understand this issue. Figure 1 shows a map of U.S. counties by DDI groups. Of the 1,031 counties with a low digital divide, 747 or 72% were considered urban (population living in urban areas 2 was more than 50%). On the other hand, of the 1,063 counties with a high digital divide, only 187 or 17.5% were urban.
Roberto looks at a number of aspects that touch on the digital divide; one that struck me was workforce situations – especially given that the data used was from 2020. It really highlights the divide between those who were ready, willing and able to work online during the early stage of the pandemic and those who weren’t.
Digital divide may not be the only issue in these areas but it’s definitely an exacerbating factor…
The digital divide is holding back counties from participating fully in the digital economy. Again, it is not clear if this would have been the case regardless of the digital divide, but nonetheless it is placing communities at a disadvantage. As shown, counties with a high digital divide lost jobs between 2010 and 2020 while counties with a low digital divide saw an 11 percent increase. Likewise, the share of occupations requiring high digital skills was larger in counties with a low digital divide. Lastly, microbusiness density and activity were also lower in counties with a high digital divide. However, regarding microbusiness activity, the issue seems to be more about sophisticated online presence rather than infrastructure and number of businesses online.
Wondering how your county did – check the list below. Only two counties were in the danger area: Aitkin and Mahnomen. Looking at how they rank in terms of access, Aitkin 79 and Mahnomen is 61.
|Big Stone County||Moderate|
|Blue Earth County||Low|
|Crow Wing County||Low|
|Lac qui Parle County||Moderate|
|Lake of the Woods County||Moderate|
|Le Sueur County||Low|
|Mille Lacs County||Moderate|
|Otter Tail County||Moderate|
|Red Lake County||Moderate|
|St. Louis County||Moderate|
|Yellow Medicine County||Moderate|