What is Digital Advancement?
Digital Advancement leverages investments in digital access and adoption to advance human potential and build a more inclusive digital economy.
The Muni index is based on the premise that expansion in the availability, affordability, adoption, and quality of digital tools is essential to building a strong foundation for a vibrant and growing city. Yet digital access alone will not lead to better outcomes. The Muni Index demonstrates that how cities invest in technology works jointly alongside other factors that influence quality of life. It is this leverage of tech toward prosperity that defines Digital Advancement.
Why the Muni Index?
The range of indicators provide a comprehensive view of Digital Advancement in a city and help policymakers and community leaders analyze the interactions across the areas of technology, socioeconomics, education, and housing and develop strategies that leverage the interconnectedness of these four categories. By design, all indicators chosen for the index impact a city’s overall score and none of the indicators are weighted. The mission of the Muni Index is to offer decision-makers a tool that shapes policies with the greatest positive impact for its residents and regional neighbors.
Read more about why we built the Muni Index from CTF President, Marta Urquilla here.
"The Digital Advancement Municipal Index is an excellent resource for cities across the country. Philadelphia has made great strides to increase digital equity, and we're building on that progress with a 5-year plan to expand digital access across every neighborhood in the city. This index is a great tool to help us get there."
Juliet Fink-Yates, digital inclusion manager for the City of Philadelphia's Office of Innovation and Technology
Explore the Index
The Muni Index is best experienced on desktop. The first half of the visualization has a filter and sort toolbar on the left. Click on any city to view the specific metrics that make up its score. You can compare up to three cities at once. Here are additional tips on navigating the tool. And please feel free to submit any feedback.
The Digital Advancement Index was developed using data from the following sources to capture characteristics of 566 of the largest U.S. cities*.
1. American Community Survey via the Census Bureau Data API (2016-2019)
3. US Census Cities Population Dataset (2016-2019)
4. Missouri Census Data Center Geocorr Tool Outputs (2016-2019)
5. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Peer City Identification Tool Dataset (2019)
The Digital Advancement Index is made up of 16 indicators, 4 each from the following categories:
The average download speeds for households in a zip code or county, share of households with a desktop/laptop computer, share of households with broadband subscriptions, and percent of households with only a cellular plan and no other subscription.
Poverty rate, a white-black residential segregation measure, percent of children with health insurance, and percent of the population that is foreign born. The data for the residential segregation measure is calculated based on the measure used by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Peer City Identification Tool, which in turn relies on a “dissimilarity index” developed by Brown University. That index calculates the percent of a city’s population that would have to move in order for neighborhoods to have population distributions that reflect the entire city. Our measure specifically compares the white (non Hispanic) population to the Black (Hispanic and non-Hispanic) populations.
Share of the total number of bachelor’s degrees in a STEM field out of all bachelor’s degrees, share of teens (age 16 to 19) who are in school or the workforce, share of population who are at least high school graduates, and share of population who are at least college graduates.
Housing vacancy rate, home value to income ratio, homeownership rate, and percent of occupied rental units that are not rent burdened.
Calculating the index was done in the following way:
Calculate the mean for each of the 16 indicators using the raw data provided. Normalize the mean of each indicator so that its score equals 100. For example, if the average broadband-at-home subscription rate for all cities is .75, then perform the mathematical operation so that this equals 100. In other words, calculate the score (100/.75)=1.33 and multiply each value in the “broadband at home” series for the 308 cities by this constant. An average city, where 75% have broadband thus has an index score of 100. A place with 85% of households with broadband has an index score of 113. Because having higher broadband adoption rates is “better” (i.e., a sign of digital advancement), the place with an 85% adoption rate has a better score (113) than a place with a 50% adoption rate (whose score would be 67).
Two of the indicators (IN2 & IN14) are not additive to cities’ scores in that they are not indicators of “digital advancement.” A higher percent of households with only a cellular plan (IN14) is not a sign of progress, yet the data is presented as an increasing percentage of households with only a cellular plan and no other subscription. To correct for this, we use the opposite percentage for these indicators (i.e. if IN2 is .35 in a city, we use .65 (1-.35) as the value to calculate the score off of).
This provides us with 566 cities with 16 indicators. A category score is created by averaging the four indicator scores that go into it. The total Digital Advancement score is the average of the 4 scores for each category in a city.
1. Some of the locations in our index are not cities* nor are they recognized by the Census as CDPs (Census Designated Places). In those cases, we use county level data. These locations include: Anchorage municipality (queried from ACS as a county), AK and Arlington County, VA (Arlington).
2. Some of the CDPs are not typical 'cities'. Athens, GA ; August, GA; Louisville, KY ; Lexington, KY; & Nashville, TN have unique government structures with counties. In these cases, we pull the CDP (which may differ slightly from the county) associated with this governance structure. Also we use the Urban Honolulu CDP for Honolulu, HI
3. IN16 is the same from 2016-2019 as we only had one year of data available for this. IN16 uses the 2020 Microsoft dataset for all years.
4. All ACS data is pulled from ACS-1 except for all places use ACS-5 for IN6 and for Lynwood, CA; Madera, CA; Perris, CA; Tulare, CA; Camden, NJ; Pharr, TX we use ACS-5 for IN8.
5. Several cities (Victorville, CA; Compton, CA; Hesperia, CA; Lynwood, CA; Homestead, FL; Lawrence, MA; Woodbury, MN; Trenton, NJ; Jacksonville, NC; Canton, OH; Mansfield, TX) were missing a single datapoint in a single year. In these cases we took the average of the datapoints in the prior and following years.
6. Some cities were missing data for all years prior to 2016 or prior to 2017. You may see some cities in the 2019 filter that aren't in the 2016, 2017 or 2021 filters. These include: South Jordan, UT; Buckeye, AZ; Rocklin, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Jupiter, FL; Wellington, FL; Cicero, IL; West Des Moines, IA; Blaine, MN
7. Some cities were removed from updated 2021 data, because they don’t have data in 2021. These include: South San Francisco, CA; Laguna Niguel, CA; North Little Rock, AR; Bossier City, LA; Gary, IN; Muncie, IN
Download the Data
The data is available as a downloadable .xlsx file upon submitting your email address.
Please include the following attribution when citing this index: “The Digital Advancement Municipal Index” Washington, DC: Centri Tech Foundation, August 2022.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out via the contact form or email us at email@example.com.
Program Director, Digital Advancement Initiatives
Kendra Hills, a Louisiana native with a passion for urbanism, specializes in exploring the intersection of technology and cities for equitable innovation. Previously, Kendra was a Future of Cities Fellow at the ESI Center for Future Cities in Philadelphia, where she focused on smart city projects, conducted market research, and authored articles on topics such as electric vehicles, infrastructure funding, and big data in city government.
She holds a Master's degree in City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Smart Cities and is a returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.
Data + Development
Hazel Zhang is a data analyst in interdisciplinary fields such as public policy, design, geography, and urban economy. Her work is focused on identifying opportunities to use data-driven insights to inform decision-making processes, and contribute to the development of sustainable and equitable urban environments. She is a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her Master's in Urban Spatial Analytics. She also holds a Bachelors degree in Architecture.
John B. Horrigan
Strategy + Data
John B. Horrigan is Senior Fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, with a focus on technology adoption and digital inclusion. Dr. Horrigan has also been a senior advisor to the Urban Libraries Council and a senior fellow to the Technology Policy Institute. Additionally, he has served as an Associate Director for Research at the Pew Research Center, where he focused on libraries and their impact on communities, as well as technology adoption patterns and open government data. During the Obama Administration, Dr. Horrigan served on the leadership team at the Federal Communications Commission for the development of the National Broadband Plan.
Data + Development
Joanie Weaver is a recent graduate of the UC Berkeley Master of Information and Data Science program. Previously, she worked as a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft and received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from MIT. She joined the project team to support the development of the index including its visualization tool, backend, datasets, and additional assorted analysis and development updates.
Strategy + Design
Laura Frances is the founding Program Director at Centri Tech Foundation. She is focused on the intersection of cities and civics. With over eight years of global real estate development and innovation consulting experience, Laura is committed to building a more inclusive and responsive urban built environment - from infrastructure to housing and all the human rights in between. Previously, she worked in the public sector, including at the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in 2011 and the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office in 2012.
Data + Development
Innocent Ndubuisi-Obi Jr is a first-year PhD Student at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering and a Research Affiliate at the MIT GOV/LAB. He received his Masters in Information Science from the University of Michigan’s School of Information and his Bachelors in International Political Economy from Georgetown University.
Questions? Feedback? Ideas? We'd love to hear from you.
Digital Advancement Institute
The Digital Advancement Institute (DAI) is a resource by Centri Tech Foundation dedicated to local government leaders seeking to build an inclusive digital economy and invest in a strong future. The DAI assists local decision makers to design and implement policies, engage in cross-sector collaborations, and demonstrate data-driven approaches to achieve equitable economic growth and social impact. The DAI seeks to build local capacity to scale a national digital advancement movement by providing visibility of local solutions and access to information, tools, and networks, including: Advocacy, Training and Technical Assistance, Data Tools and Resources, and Convenings and Networks.
A Centri Tech Foundation Project
Centri Tech Foundation (CTF), along with a network of community development partners, seeks to connect low-income people to high-quality connectivity in the home and to resources that improve economic, health and livelihood outcomes in the digital economy. We believe digital advancement is a civil right. To achieve a sustainable future, one where everyone can fulfill their aspirations and thrive, requires an inclusive digital economy. Learn more at centritechfdn.org and follow @centritechfdn on social media.