Metro Nashville officials want to measure the digital access — and the lack thereof — among Davidson County residents.
They are encouraging residents to take a survey designed to guide the city’s efforts to bridge the “digital divide” — gap in broadband access and exposure to technology — from neighborhood to neighborhood.
The survey takes place after a year of remote learning exposed the necessity of high-speed internet, as well as the hardship to live without.
Government officials are championing investments in broadband expansion. In Tennessee, state lawmakers passed a $42.6 billion budget that will pump $100 million into the effort. Federally, President Joe Biden unveiled an infrastructure proposal to invest $100 billion into building broadband that will reach all Americans.
More:With the struggles of remote learning, why educators say ‘it’s impossible to separate’ academics from digital access
The Metro survey is conducted by the city’s digital inclusion and access taskforce, Vanderbilt Peabody and The Equity Alliance, a Nashville-based nonprofit advocacy group, according to a Wednesday news release. The survey is part of Metro’s smart city plan “Connected Nashville,” a 76-person working group convened by former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.
Those who struggle with access to technology or know little about it have a harder time “to fully participate in society,” said Keith Durbin, Metro’s chief information officer and director of IT services.
“Education, job opportunities, telehealth and other resources are more broadly available to people who are able to operate in an online environment,” he said.
Available both online and in paper copies, the survey poses 36 questions that cover a wide range of areas: access to high-speed internet and smart devices, cost of broadband services and proficiency in technology.
Respondents have until May 15 to fill out the survey.
Those who take the survey must be 18 years or older. The anonymous survey will not identify individual residents. It will collect information such as each resident’s race, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, education level, ZIP code, primary language spoken and family income range.
The survey is available online at nashvilledigitalequitysurvey.org.
For those without internet access, the city has mailed out 5,000 paper copies of the survey to random addresses, and expects roughly 1,000 responses in return, said Pearl Amanfu of Metro Information Technology Services.
The Equity Alliance will also help with field work in the community, where staff members will provide tablets at local events, or high-traffic areas such as grocery stores and libraries, Amafu said.
To accommodate minority residents, the survey is offered in English, Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, Somali, Burmese and Vietnamese — the most common languages spoken in Nashville.
The results of the survey will be publicly shared with the community on Metro’s open data portal at data.nashville.gov. Nashville’s digital inclusion and access taskforce will issue recommendations “by targeting work to address areas of greatest need” based on the data, according to a Wednesday news release.