Riverside County’s Campaign to Bring Broadband to Every Square Mile
What’s possible in a community where every citizen has access to affordable, super-fast internet? Riverside County hopes it means more people working inside the county’s limits, families spending more time together, and highways relieved of congestion.
Riverside County is the tenth most populous county in the U.S. and is nearly the size of New Jersey. But, despite its wealth of human and land resources it struggles economically. Many residents leave the county to work in locations closer to the Pacific coast. Riverside County Chief Data Officer Tom Mullen wants widespread internet access to help change that pattern.
“The residents of Riverside County have an immediate need for better and more affordable broadband internet.” —Riverside County Chief Data Officer Tom Mullen
“The residents of Riverside County have an immediate need for better and more affordable broadband internet. It will cut commute times, improve educational outcomes, and grow our economy. The coasts are full. We are here with intelligent, skilled workers and we want them working in the county, not commuting outside of it, ” says Mullen.
Riverside also hopes that better internet will help its bid for Amazon HQ2. The county has Ontario International Airport and Palm Springs International Airport. Widespread internet will only help their cause.
Mullen and team have created RIVCOconnect, a proposal to bring affordable, high-speed broadband services to every resident. Mullen has created three resource pages, using Socrata Perspectives and data hosted on the county’s open data portal, to explain the value of high-speed broadband internet service for businesses, residents, and those who lack reliable internet access. Riverside County has been accepting request for proposals from internet providers, with submissions due by September 28, 2017.
The Benefits of High-Speed Internet
What problems would gigabit internet help solve? The Riverside team has taken the time to detail possible improvements using charts, graphs, quotes from experts, images, and statistics, all hosted on Socrata Perspectives.
The page dedicated to economic growth explains the power of widespread, gigabit connectivity to improve operational efficiency for businesses. Mullen and team are particularly interested in promoting telecommuting, teleconferencing, and linking work spaces since 41 percent of residents leave the county every day to work.
Using data and data visualizations from the county’s open data portal, and U.S. Census data, the “RIVCOconnect – Business Community” page makes a case that better internet could help small to mid-sized businesses in the county grow. These businesses currently employ half the county’s working population. Making more jobs available in-county keeps people near their families and engages homebound community members who can provide services to global employers.
Most of Riverside County’s 2.4 million residents are under the age of 44. Many have families and children in school and broadband could help those students learn better. According to the “RIVCOconnect – Our Residents” page, “ubiquitous broadband is a must in order to ensure students anywhere can gain access to the internet to complete their studies and have equal opportunities for success.”
Currently, 17 percent of residents live below the poverty line and four percent do not have any internet access where they live. RIVCOconnect is designed to address both those issues by creating equal access to the highest-speed internet possible.
On their “RIVCOconnect – Digital Divide” page, Mullen and team outline the problem they most wish to address: people who are shut out of the digital economy due to little or no internet access. A 2017 California Public Utilities Commission issued a report that shows 43 percent of rural households can’t get reliable broadband.
When it comes to college applications, applying for jobs online, accessing social services, and a lot of basic communication, Mullen wants all Riverside residents to have equal opportunities. The resource page quotes former President Barack Obama who said in 2015, “Today, high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
Building Resource Pages in Perspectives
Riverside County chose to build their resource pages using Perspectives, Socrata’s next-gen data narration product, because the county could quickly combine video tutorials, data visualizations, images, and text to create a complete story for residents. The data on many of the embedded visualizations is updated automatically via the county’s Socrata-powered open data portal, which hosts health, education, demographic, public safety, and other public data.
The data on many of the embedded visualizations is updated automatically via the county’s Socrata-powered open data portal, which hosts health, education, demographic, public safety, and other public data.
Using a data-friendly tool like Perspectives shows Riverside wants efficiency, accuracy, and agility when communicating with residents. “Perspectives provides context around data, allowing everyone to understand it and put it to use quickly,” says Socrata CEO and Founder Kevin Merritt.
Once all the proposals are in, Riverside’s team will choose a provider and start work on transforming the county into a more connected place. For other government agencies considering adopting a similar program, Mullen has advice: “The data itself is not the end goal or answer, but rather a catalyst to connect ideas, initiatives, outcomes, operations, and resources with residents, businesses, and decision-makers inside your organization and throughout our community.”
Are you interested in telling your stories more easily, and with data to back them up? Contact Socrata to discuss your options. We’d love to help.