Help us create a vision of equitable access to high-speed internet in the St. Louis region

When a crisis strikes, there’s one thing we know…St. Louis pulls together, and the COVID-19 pandemic was no different.

We all came together during a time of need to support our friends and neighbors, donated to our local nonprofits and their clients who needed access to immediate resources such as food and shelter, and determined how to use technology in ways that we have never done before.

Our students learned how to partake in virtually learning, caregivers provided healthcare via telehealth options, and many businesses were forced into 100% remote options – all with technology at their fingertips.
However, just like people around the world were forced to assimilate to these ‘new norms,’ there are several individuals and groups who still did not have equal and equitable access to technology. The COVD-19 pandemic made the entire world embrace a digital transformation at an expedited pace, forcing us all to think critically and creatively in how we work, learn and live in place. But the pandemic brought to light a long-standing issue that thousands of people remain without internet access.

Many rural and low-income communities around the world, including those in large urban areas, lack reliable, affordable access. More importantly, wireless technology is no longer just important for consumers and entertainment; it is rapidly becoming critical to how we connect everything in the digital world.

The sad truth, households and people without internet access are being left behind academically and economically. Currently, 29% 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.

However, it is time for our region to make transformative change. The St. Louis Community Foundation (STLCF) and the Center for Civic Research and Innovation (CCRI) have partnered to address the inequities in our communities and create meaningful, permanent change to guarantee all people have access to the technology needed for work and school in an effort to decrease the digital divide.

The digital divide working group is being supported by Ernst & Young, Missouri Foundation for Health, NISA Foundation, The Opportunity Trust, Regional Business Council, St. Louis Community Foundation, St. Louis Public Schools Foundation and the St. Louis Regional Response Fund (a component fund of STLCF). Spearheaded by a steering committee, as part of the research, a community-wide campaign will collect survey data to help better connect our underserved communities.

Support the campaign today by helping to create a vision for equitable access to high-speed internet that connects people in the St. Louis region to information and each other.