The city is embarking on a monthslong effort to collect information about residents’ access to technology and how they use it.
Raleigh’s information technology department will use data from the survey to help guide future outreach programs that focus on digital literacy and technology skills.
“You can make some assumptions about some parts of our community,” said Gail Roper, chief information officer of Raleigh’s IT department. “But we didn’t want to base our programming on what we thought we know.”
City staff members are visiting community advisory committees to introduce the Community Digital Inclusion survey and let residents know different ways they can respond.
Some Raleigh residents will receive the survey by mail this spring. It can be completed on paper, online and at various events hosted by the city.
The survey will collect demographic information as well as information about digital habits. Its goal is to help the city create targeted programs that respond to the needs of residents.
“We can see the impact, we just need to measure it now,” said Brittney Cofield-Poole, community outreach specialist for the IT department. She will oversee the collection of the survey.
Finding out what people need from a municipal IT department is part of a larger four-year effort, Roper said. It was important to her to lead the department to become more community-focused and fill in digital gaps.
“I felt like we could really enable communities,” she said. “It’s really a mission to not sit and watch servers hum. We’ve come out of the data center and into the community.”
It’s been tough to anticipate the needs of residents and form appropriate partnerships with private businesses who can lend expertise or financial support, Roper said.
The department expects to see a spectrum of challenges and obstacles residents face while trying to keep up with digital trends. Some residents may have devices and not know how to use them. Others may rely on public services, like public library computers, Roper said.
The city has hosted programs for teenagers and senior citizens, teaching skills and helping with accessibility to affordable technology. But it’s been hard to measure the success of those programs beyond an individual experience.
Surveys will be distributed to some Raleigh residents in early April and will be collected until the beginning of May. The department should be ready to share results by August, Cofield-Poole said.