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.

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The Digital Advancement Index was developed using data from the following sources to capture characteristics of 308 of the largest U.S. cities*.

1. American Community Survey via the Census Bureau Data API (2016-2019) 

2. United States Broadband Usage Percentages Dataset (2020)

3. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Peer City Identification Tool Dataset (2019)

4. US Census Cities Population Dataset (2016-2019)

5. Missouri Census Data Center Geocorr Tool Output (2016-2019)




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 drawn from the 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.



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. The method above might give a city with lots of such households a score of 120 and a city with relatively few would have a score of 75. To correct for this, such a series of data is rendered using a difference from the mean approach – specifically “100 minus (score - 100).” In the example above, the score of 120 becomes 80 and the score of 75 becomes 125. This approach results in the mean for each of these indicators to be 100 across all cities.


This provides us with 308 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, Arlington County, VA (Arlington), Fayette County, KY (Lexington), Jefferson County, KY (Louisville)

2. Two of the indicators (IN2 & IN16) are the same from 2016-2019 as we only had one year of data available for these indicators. (IN2 uses the 2019 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Peer City dataset & IN16 uses the 2020 Microsoft dataset for all years)

3. All ACS data is pulled from ACS-1 except for IN6 where we used ACS-5

4. Victorville, CA is missing IN8 for 2018. In this case, we filled in IN8 for 2018 for Victorville, CA with the mean average of the 2017 & 2019 values for IN8 for Victorville, CA.


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, May 2022.


If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out via the contact form or email us at hello@centritechfdn.org



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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. 

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Laura Frances Mueller-Soppart

Strategy + Design

Laura Frances Mueller-Soppart 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.


Joanie Weaver

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.


Innocent Ndubuisi-Obi Jr

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.


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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.