- Kansas City, MO recently revealed a new open data portal that maps out residents' access to computers and internet, comparative to their incomes.
- Despite being the first city to get Google Fiber in 2012, many residents still don’t have access to high-speed internet and are unlikely to get it from Google in the near future.
- The map fits into Kansas City’s Digital Equality Access Plan, which aims to find a "path from digital inclusion to economic mobility and entrepreneurship."
This data lets the local government focus in on regions that need the most attention, according to Rick Usher, assistant city manager for small business and entrepreneurship, in an interview with Startland News. Usher also pointed out that the neighborhoods with the slowest speeds have the lowest life expectancy rates, showing how tightly tied the broadband issue is to poverty.
During his presidency, Barack Obama pledged to close the digital divide and make sure every American could have fast and affordable broadband by 2020. But figures from the 2010 Census show that 31 million Americans lacked access to a home or mobile broadband connection. Lacking fast internet at home can create a "homework gap," where students are at a disadvantage and can fall behind in school. Recognizing connectivity as essential for everything from applying to jobs to health care access, the mayors of 44 cities came together in late 2015 to sign a document asking the federal government to modernize a Reagan-era phone access program that would subsidize internet access.
Beyond bridging the digital divide, Kansas City has other smart city projects going on, charted in the KC Digital Roadmap. The city partnered with Cisco two years ago to install a two-mile long data collection network along the streetcar corridor. Kansas City uses the data for other maps to help drivers find parking spots and to monitor traffic. The city also has touchscreen kiosks, free public Wi-Fi and smart streetlights. These efforts and more earned Kansas City the gold medal in Connected Collaboration from the Edison Awards.