The Digital Divide is Holding our Region Back
Did you know? Twenty-nine percent of households in the City of St. Louis and 15% of households in St. Louis County do not have high-speed internet subscriptions? The real-life impacts of this inequitable access have long existed but have been emphasized and exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. The St. Louis Community Foundation and the Center for Civic Research and Innovation (CCRI) are partnering with the community and local key partners in seeking solutions to close the “digital divide” to create equitable access to reliable, high speed internet across the region.
Text ConnectSTL to 844-399-1314 to take a quick survey and enter a raffle.
The information you provide will help us create an action plan to connect all in the STL region to reliable, high speed internet. The ConnectSTL Survey can also be taken online here.
of households in the City of St. Louis do not have high-speed internet subscriptions
of households in St. Louis County do not have high-speed internet subscriptions
In the 63105 zip code, all but 3.5% of residents have a computing device while only 7% are without broadband access.
of residents in the 63106 zip code do not have a computing device and nearly half lack access to broadband connectivity.
What is the Digital Divide?
What is the Digital Divide?
Issues of internet connectivity in the United States have traditionally been framed as part of a larger rural-urban divide. However, the landscape of broadband access within urban areas raises significant issues on its own. Currently, 29% of households in the City of St. Louis and 15% of households in St. Louis County do not have high-speed internet subscriptions.
A quick examination of the geographies without broadband internet access confirms what observers might predict. St. Louis’ most at-risk populations are also the least able to access education, health, employment, and financial services due to a lack of high-speed internet connectivity. The real-life impacts of this inequitable access have long existed but have been emphasized and exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true with regard to health outcomes, access to care, and the availability of online health resources.
Objective + Purpose
What Happens to the Data?
This project will produce an actionable plan to address the digital divide in St. Louis City and County. In partnership with a national leadership team from Ernst & Young (EY), the St. Louis Community Foundation and the Center for Civic Research and Innovation (CCRI) will provide a comprehensive assessment of needs, identify a spectrum of short and long-term solutions to the digital divide that will be coupled with sustainable financing plans, as well as create and implement sustainable systems with the goal of 100% connectivity for the region. This goal will be achieved by focusing on access to the necessary connectivity infrastructure, availability of necessary devices, and the mentoring of individuals to utilize the internet to meet their needs.
The goal of this initiative is to bring equitable connectivity to St. Louis. Therefore, the central metric for success will be the number of residents in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, who have affordable access to high-speed internet and the devices necessary to connect, as well as the ability and support necessary to utilize the internet in a meaningful way.
In addition, CCRI will partner with a local facilitator and community engagement professional to interview community members, engage key local community organizations, and provide a collaborative framework to ensure that any solutions devised reflect the specific needs of those served and address unique obstacles along the spectrum of connecting target populations.
This information will be documented and tracked throughout the entirety of this project. All data will be collected and analyzed by CCRI in collaboration with EY and a contracted community engagement professional in order to inform solutions and the implementation process. As with all of the research and data collected as part of this effort, the community engagement data will be made publicly available as part of this project’s commitment to transparency.
Currently, twenty-nine percent of households in the City of St. Louis and 15% of households in St. Louis County do not have high-speed connectivity. St. Louis’ most at-risk populations are the least able to access education, health, employment, and financial services due to a lack of high-speed connectivity. The real-life impacts of this inequitable access have long existed but have been emphasized and exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. A significant percentage of St. Louis households are unable to access basic connectivity, lack devices, or lack the skills for utilization thereof. This creates obstacles to attending school and utilizing educational resources, working, accessing medical care, and connecting with family, friends, and community. This project provides a unique opportunity to address these obstacles and construct equitable, sustainable solutions.
A recent Rand study highlighted the growing demand for virtual health care and the impact of the lack of internet access. The study was conducted across 500 California clinics that in previous years had minimal telehealth visits. The findings showed that 50% of all medical visits conducted between March and August of 2020 were conducted via telehealth. However, due to a lack of internet access nearly all of the visits were conducted by phone despite concerns about quality of care.
The use of telehealth and online health resources is predicted to continue well beyond the current pandemic environment. As such, current trends in connectivity gaps could serve to aggravate disparities among vulnerable populations due to a lack of internet, and as a result, health care access. Data from the American Community Survey (ACS) highlights the obstacles to connectivity for these groups:
- Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) adults 65 and over have no internet access;
- An equal number (18%) of those living below the federal poverty level lack internet access;
- Medicare and Medicaid recipients comprise two-thirds of the U.S. population with no internet access.
Locally, an often-cited metric of the region’s disparate health outcomes is the near 18-year gap in life expectancy between the 63105 and 63106 zip codes. Addressing this imbalance is that much more difficult without addressing the digital divide that is equally stark between the two localities.
In the 63105 zip code, all but 3.5% of residents have a computing device while only 7% are without broadband access. In contrast, 29% of residents in the 63106 zip code do not have a computing device and nearly half lack access to broadband connectivity. These disparities highlight the need for the development and implementation of solutions to the digital divide so that disparities in health outcomes can be comprehensively addressed.
 Telehealth Use Among Safety-Net Organizations in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lori Uscher-Pines, Jessica L. Sousa, Maggie Jones, Christopher M. Whaley, Christopher Perrone, Colleen M. McCullough, Allison J. Ober.
Published in: Journal of the American Medical Association (February 2020).
Steering Committee Members
Who's Leading this Effort
A Steering Committee of local stakeholders and frontline practitioners serve as a guide for the #ConnectSTL initiative. Their activities include engaging + listening to community members to better understand the digital divide, and using that input to inform action steps.
Steering Committee members include:
- Dara Eskridge – Invest STL
- Jacki Langum – Arch City Defenders
- Natalie Self – STEM STL/Cortex
- Kristen Sorth – St. Louis County Library
- Claire Wolf – UM-System / Neighborhood Leaders
- Liz Reeves – St. Louis City Public Library
- Elizabeth George – St. Louis Community Foundation
- Orlando Sharpe – Stem Consultant / Neighborhood Leadership Academy
- Austin Walker – Regional Business Council
- Tim Arbeiter – Director of Broadband Development – MO Department of Economic Development
Who Supports this Initiative
ConnectSTL is being supported and funding by the following:
- Ernst & Young
- Missouri Foundation for Health
- NISA Charitable Fund
- Opportunity Trust
- Regional Business Council
- St. Louis Community Foundation
- St. Louis Public Schools Foundation
- St. Louis Regional Response Fund (a component fund of the St. Louis Community Foundation)
About Center for Civic Research and Innovation (CCRI)
What is the Center for Civic Research and Innovation
CCRI is a mission driven organization that seeks to serve as a catalyst for the actionable, innovative solutions necessary for a safe, equitable, and thriving St. Louis region. While CCRI has in-depth experience researching and analyzing data across the fields of education, health, and economic development, it is not singularly or primarily focused on any one field. With no specific policy sector focus, CCRI is positioned to serve as an objective researcher and convenor. The partnership with Ernst & Young significantly strengthens recommendations and provides the expertise needed for implementation
Partner + Promote + Participate & Help Us Spread the Word!
Are you ready to help your local community by helping us bridge the Digital Divide? Become a brand ambassador and use the resources below for ideas to connect your friends, family and networks by helping us gather data to support the research.