Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said a viral photo perfectly illustrates a problem called digital equity.
The photo shows two young children sitting on a curb with their laptops near a Taco Bell in California. They were reportedly using the restaurant’s free wi-fi to do their homework.
“It was a stark reminder that not all kids and not all people in our community have the same access to connectivity," TenHaken said.
The problem extends to Sioux Falls. According to census data, about 9,000 households in the city lack internet service. That’s potentially more than 20,000 people.
So, the city government and internet provider Midco are teaming up. Midco is donating $50,000 to start a community task force. It’s called the Inclusive Digital Equity Alliance, or IDEA.
Midco’s Paige Pearson Meyer announced the gift with TenHaken at a news conference Tuesday.
“Digital equity is about participation," she said. "It’s about all people fully participating in society, democracy and the economy.”
The money will help city officials assemble the task force and hire consultants. The consultants will help the task force determine what specific barriers are keeping people from accessing the internet.
-Seth Tupper is SDPB's business and economic development reporter