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Why Mapping and Location Intelligence Matter for Communities of Color

Bowling Green, KY (February 16, 2021) - Mapping and related technologies have always been important to societies through the ages, not just in collecting data on people and places, but also displaying them for visual understanding. This is used in every sphere of our lives and allows us to evolve and understand the world. Today, mapping has gotten even better, more relevant, interactive, and more accessible with the development of apps. Virtually anyone who has a smartphone can have access to a map. The development of location intelligence (LI), which provides more nuanced maps through additional data, also means that mapping can be used as a powerful tool not only for change, but for better decision making.

For communities of color, mapping can be a great tool for addressing the social and economic disparities that are often associated with these communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought increased attention to the inequities among communities of color and the health consequences associated with it. The changing technology in mapping can be used to bring added dimension in identifying, analyzing, understanding, and solving these problems to allow those affected realize their full potential. It must be noted that while mapping and technology are effective tools for bringing about change and progress, the role of advocacy and willingness of policy makers to bring about change cannot be underestimated.

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One of the issues that needs addressing in communities of color is access to equitable healthcare, ensuring that people in these communities can achieve their full health potential, irrespective of their racial or ethnic background. Mapping can be used to identify community access to healthcare, or lack thereof, or to make predictions on future health needs and how those can be addressed. Location Intelligence can also help reveal disparities and what resources can be leveraged to address them.

Food insecurity is another issue that affects many communities across the country. One way communities of color can help address this issue is by leveraging LI and mapping to not only identify the people facing such difficulty in the community, but also to find the reasons behind it. Some people may not have access to transportation, or it could be due to inadequate produce supply to the community. Other factors that can lead to food insecurity may include income, disability, and spending trade-offs due to health complications and medication cost. Having the relevant data and analysis through mapping can help direct these communities to the needed resources and possible solutions. 

Racial equity in housing, education, policing, and environmental pollution are other important issues that communities of color can use mapping and location intelligence to address. Using historical data, maps can be created to show relationships, patterns, and disparities in these issues in order to communicate more effectively when pushing for corrective policy changes to address such inequities for better social outcomes. 

The early days of COVID-19 revealed how important broadband access is to our world. That has been how we all stay connected during shutdowns. Indeed, our livelihoods became dependent on access to high-speed internet since it became necessary for many people to work and be educated from remote locations. Mapping and location intelligence provides the means to collect data related to internet coverage and to analyze such data to show which areas are served or unserved, and what speeds a location may have. Connected Nation has demonstrated how detailed broadband mapping is possible and how policymakers are using such data and analyses to transform the broadband landscape. This work is especially important in communities of color that need broadband and technology access in order to address social and economic disparities to create an equitable future for all. 

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About the Author: Frank Aryee, GISP, is a Connected Nation GIS Analyst. Frank uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping technology to create, process, edit, and analyze location-based data, especially related to availability of broadband services.