A new survey is designed to figure out just how wide Philadelphia’s digital divide is, and how well efforts implemented during the coronavirus pandemic narrowed the gap.
The survey of 2,500 random phone numbers assigned to Philadelphia aims to determine how many people have household internet and how to supply it to those in need.
Brigitte Daniel Corbin is CEO of Wilco Electronic Systems, one of the city’s partners in the endeavor.
“It really will be determining how many households are with or without the internet, and how many have taken advantage of the internet during the pandemic, which is the catalyst of a new dataset of information, and getting into the demographics of how they are using it.”
The current data is outdated because of efforts during the pandemic to bring the internet into homes and equipment given out during virtual learning. The city hopes to update this data set using the survey and integrate the new information into its digital equity strategy.
John Horrigan, former research director of the National Broadband Plan at the Federal Communications Commission, says, “The survey will examine not just the size of the city’s digital divide, but also whether residents’ views on whether digital tools meet their connectivity needs for critical purposes such as schoolwork and telehealth.”
The city of Philadelphia provided access to over 17,500 families with school-aged children at home through the PHL ConnectedED program during the pandemic, offering hard-wired internet connections and hotspots to assist in the home-based learning process.
The survey is anonymous, being conducted in six different languages, and will run for one month. Among its goals is to see if households have taken advantage of pandemic-related programs to get internet service, evaluate satisfaction with internet providers, and understand the affordability of service for households.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is urging any household that receives a call to participate in the survey.
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