Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.
Cook County ranks 29 out of 87 counties for digital equity. That puts them in the top third of the state but their individual tracts rankings are at different extremes. As far as educational attainment, their ranking for high school degree is 1 and bachelor’s degree is 5. Access to broadband as speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up is ranked 8. But their ranking for poverty is 76 and poverty below 150 percent is 57. Even computer ownership is only 19 and broadband subscription is 32. There seems to be a digital divide in the community where some people have access and skills to use it and others do not. Their challenge is to reach those who are disconnected. Cook County has a history of digital equity programs so they have local partners and experts to engage.
Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.
Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.
Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)
|Access to 100/20||8|
|No HS degree||1|
|Below 150% poverty (last 12 months)||57|
|Below poverty (last 12 months)||76|
|No broadband access||29|
The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.
So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:
- Cook County School District (ISD #166)
Superintendent Chris Lindholm
(218) 387-2271 x612
Regional Development Commission
- Arrowhead Regional Development Commission
There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation:
|Project Owner||Project Name||Description|
|Cook County||Broadband Connections||Project support to expand county Wi-Fi access through creating and maintaining public hotspot and video conferencing locations|
|Cook County||Co-Working facility||Project support to create a co-working center in Grand Marais that will provide space for entrepreneurs and tele-workers to congregate and work using the fiber optic network and center equipment|
|Boreal Access||Community Media Services||Community Media Services will put the necessary tools in place to produce, upload, and serve local media content, including video production, editing, and storage. This is part of a bigger vision to grow and support an online community access channel.|
|Cook County Higher Education||Training for Broadband||Cook County Higher Education will create and equip a lab facility that can be used to host events that tout the benefits of broadband and educate the community about how to use its tools. Digital inclusion issues will be addressed along with the training needs for future knowledge workers.|
|Cook County Historical Society||Online History Museum Catalog with Multi-media links||The Cook County Historical Society will acquire the equipment, software and general labor necessary to convert their collection database to be accessible through a searchable catalog on their website.|
|Cook County Visitor’s Bureau||Mobile Devices – Website Compatibility Conversion||To increase visitor traffic and overall usability, the Cook County Visitors Bureau will make their tourism-related sites mobile compatible.|
|Grand Marais Public Library||Try Broadband at The Library||The Grand Marais Public Library will increase public access to broadband by adding four laptops and two e-readers to their available equipment.|
|ISD #166||IP Video Streaming||ISD #166 will acquire the equipment to stream live video of events in one gymnasium.|
|Sawtooth Mountain Clinic||Health Reaching Out||Sawtooth Medical Clinic will use patient scheduling and initial consultation processes as a starting point to use online web forms to gather patient information. They will also explore how they can leverage social media through a project that will use several online videos to deliver important, educational healthcare messages.|
|WTIP||Eye to Eye (i2i) Video Project||The Eye to Eye Video project will allow local radio station, WTIP, to expand their use of online video.|