Increasing Tech and Internet Access to Close the Digital Divide

As Social Workers we ride on the shoulders of giants. We don't worry IF we can address issues, we ask ourselves how we will address it.

We build upon various theories while taking past methods into account. My theories revolve around time and place (spatio-temporal) analytics in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). But I am not the 1st to do so in the field.

Jane Addams

Utilized surveying in the infamous Chicago Hull House.

Chicago Hull House Map

Nationality Map from Hull-House Maps and Papers ,1895.

W.E.B. DuBois

The father of Sociology and founder of racial conflict theory also utilized GIS in his seminal piece The Philadelphia Negro. He was the first to view African Americans from a comprehensive lens. He met his survey participants where they were, literally.

DuBois categorized residents according to the following groups:

Grade 1 (red): The “Middle Classes” and those above

Grade 2 (green): The Working People, Fair to Comfortable

Grade 3 (blue): The Poor

Grade 4 (black): Vicious and Criminal Classes

Meet Them Where They Are

That's right, DuBois literally met his participants where they were. As Social Workers we say meet them where they are. But do we really? Or do we traditionally make them come to us? (We can discuss this during another class) What if we really meet them where they their communities, with the assistance of mapping of course. But 1st we need to know where they are and this is where GIS comes into play in 2019.

Grand Challenge Problem Statement

While technology and internet access is a constant resource for some, there are nearly half a million households in the state with the most millionaires in the nation, New Jersey, without access to adequate technology and zero internet connectivity in their homes (Scipioni, 2019) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013-2017).

You're probably thinking this can't be true, so see for yourself. Here's a map depicting internet access here in NJ. Locate the map's legend to the left of the map for clarity. YOU MUST DOUBLE CLICK THE MAP AND ZOOM DOWN TO THE NJ COUNTY LEVEL TO EXAMINE THE DATA

Now let's view one of the main drivers of this and many other wicked problems!


Understanding redlining is crucial to gaining an understanding of the role of the federal government’s role in housing discrimination during, and subsequent to, the Great Depression. The National Housing Act of 1934 was established to make long term loans available to buyers with the federal government insuring eighty percent of the home’s assessed value. Buying a home previously required prospective buyers to pay thirty to fifty percent of the home’s value as a down payment. New regulations under the National Housing Act also allowed existing homeowners to borrow funds to renovate their homes. The rationale behind the idea of allowing a 15-year payment term for mortgages was to try and avoid the need for a second mortgage.

When areas were deemed “unsuitable” and it was outlined in RED, no loans were to be approved. The ‘redline’ was an indication of the area being an “investment risk.” In addition to this, the FHA Underwriting Manual proclaimed neighborhoods rated A,B, and C, would have their applications forwarded for further approval. Meanwhile, “for those rated D, it would be the end of the line,” for area ratings of “D,” no mortgage will be accepted for insurance in any block.” The color coded maps were created for cities across the United States between 1935-40; the maps were uncovered in the 1970s.

Federal policies established by the United States not only discriminated against blacks but also whites wanting to live in the city versus suburbs. Between 1934 and 1975, seventy-nine percent of the loans approved were approved for suburban rather than urban areas.

Black families were a special concern to raters of the mortgages and caused the areas they were in to receive lower ratings. When “Russian Jews of lower class, South Italians, Negroes, and Mexicans” were present mortgages were not to be financed, according to a 1933 report used by employees that rated mortgage approvals. This is interesting since the purpose if the NHA was to support the buildup of urban communities in the wake of The Great Depression. The failure to grant loans in diminishing communities attributed to the decrease of surrounding property value, accomplishing the opposite of what the NHA was created to achieve.


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