- Joint Commission on Racial Justice and Equity
- Information Technology Subcommittee
Information Technology Subcommittee
Work to Date
The Information & Technology (IT) Sub-Committee is charged with identifying racial inequities related to internet and technology access in the City and County of Peoria. We examined equity plans for King County, Washington, and the City of Philadelphia; researched digital equity plans for similar-sized cities; and reviewed “Digital Inclusion for the Greater Peoria Region,” a presentation from an American Connection Corps Fellow with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. We also met with representatives from the Purdue University Center for Regional Development and the Illinois Office of Broadband for advice on the best data sources to illustrate racial inequities and created a list of trusted community organizations to discuss future outreach and collaboration.
Indicators of Racial Disparity
The late Congressman John Lewis referred to internet access as “THE Civil Rights issue of the 21st century.” The lack of internet access limits opportunities in employment and careers, impedes interaction with educational and health resources, and inhibits the ability to retrieve vital community news and information. However, reliable data for IT racial disparities is often difficult to find. The Sub-Committee utilized the Microsoft Digital Equity Dashboard, which pulls together key information by census tract to calculate a digital equity score.
Digital Equity by Census Tract
Each census tract in Peoria County was assessed a digital equity score based on the following inputs:
- 25 years old + without a high school diploma
- Households without a desktop or laptop
- Households without an internet subscription or broadband
- % of people not using internet at broadband speed
- % of annual median income spent on broadband
The digital equity score for each census tract is represented on the vertical axis, while the horizontal axis represents the percentage of the White population within each census tract. As the scores increase, so does digital inequity. Census tracts with the lowest digital inequity appear in dark blue and are predominately White, while tracts with the highest digital inequity appear in yellow and are predominately Black. Tracts with higher digital inequity have a greater percentage of their population without desktops, laptops, broadband internet access, and the digital literacy needed to be successful in our society.
As the chart makes clear, there is a strong correlation of increased digital inequity among census tracts with higher populations of people of color.
The IT Sub-Committee plans to investigate ways to expand affordable and reliable internet access into homes as well as utilizing public spaces to expand wi-fi and hotspot access points for area residents. We hope to partner with organizations such as PCs for People to provide free or low-cost computers. An initial focus on digital literacy programs for adults may be the best first step toward building more widespread proficiency in underserved populations. We also need to employ alternate avenues for disseminating information to community members who lack connectivity through direct mail, flyers, event boards, church bulletins, and targeted, geo-located texts.
The Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program, funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is providing nearly $1 billion to the State of Illinois to achieve broadband access for unserved and underserved populations. The Connect Illinois broadband investment package contains nearly $400 million in matching grants dedicated to achieving broadband equity throughout the state. These are the largest and most targeted efforts to date to make broadband ubiquitous across the state. We hope to support and participate in grant writing to obtain some of those funds.
- Lisamarie Schultz (Co-Chair)
- Daniel McCloud (Co-Chair)
- Jessica Bastian
- Shawn Johnson
- Jessica McKean
- Sunny Pearson
- Jennifer Replogle
- Jamiel Shelton
- Datikka Wright