Dec 14, 2022

Enabling Digital Equity Through Geospatial Big Data

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Access to a stable Internet connection in the 21st century is essential. The Covid-19 pandemic further highlighted the fact that stable and consistent access to broadband services is not a luxury, it is a necessity for modern life. The United Nations Human Rights Council has even declared that access to the Internet is a basic human right. Yet, Internet usage and digital equity survey indicate a large portion of America’s rural areas and urban population live in a “digital desert,” which denotes a geo-location that is devoid of a single Internet Service Provider (ISP). 

In order to close the gap on this digital divide and create digital equity, telecom providers need access to tools that can fully leverage the extensive value of geospatial big data and show which areas of the country have access to insufficient broadband services, and which have no access at all. Read on to learn more about digital equity, how geospatial big data can help close the digital gap, and the role accelerated analytics solutions play in accelerating digital equity programs. 

What is Digital Equity? 

Digital equity refers to the condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Digital equity and inclusion have similar goals. Digital inclusion work refers to efforts being put forth to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies. Digital equity centers and digital equity coalitions exist in different states to help communities mobilize broadband adoption through digital inclusion, digital skills literacy efforts, education, resource planning, funding research, infrastructure leveraging, and stakeholder engagement.  

There are broadband provisions in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that ensure states, counties, Tribes, and others do more to close this digital equity divide. Some key aspects include: 

  • Digital Equity Act: ($1.3 billion): The Digital Equity Act of 2021 funds State-level planning and introduced a digital equity competitive grant program available to both public-sector and not-for-profit entities.
  • Equity, Access and Deployment: ($42 billion): This program, run by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), centers around digital equity grants being made to States. States would use digital equity funds to distribute competitive subgrants for qualifying broadband infrastructure, mapping, and adoption projects. 
  • State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program: ($1.44 billion): This program, available to states, territories, and tribal governments, will fund an annual grant program in support of the implementation of digital equity projects for five years. 
  • Middle Mile Infrastructure: ($1 billion): The “Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure” program directs NTIA to make available grants for construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle mile infrastructure, which connects local networks to high-capacity major networks. 
  • Affordability: Affordability digital equity initiatives include: extension and modification of the existing Emergency Broadband Benefit program; requiring consumer broadband services and fees labels be clearly displayed; and formation of a cross-agency Task Force to Prevent Digital Discrimination. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) promises to invest $65 billion into broadband infrastructure deployment, as well as help lower prices for internet services, to ensure that every American has access to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet.

For telcos, this presents significant business opportunities, but also considerable complexity. Participating telcos will need to be able to map out unserved and underserved areas, collect and analyze usage data, map out terrain, and budget for tower crews and fiber construction teams. Leveraging geospatial intelligence tools can help accelerate implementation and adherence to the guidelines outlined in the Infrastructure Law for establishing successful digital equity programs.

Applying Geospatial Big Data

The greatest challenge facing telcos and local government organizations working to close the digital gap and create a successful digital equity plan is the sheer volume and variety of geospatial and telco data that needs to be collected and analyzed. Existing legacy tools lack sufficient power to handle such massive big data sets and product valuable insight in a timely manner. That’s why it’s critical to invest in advanced geospatial intelligence tools that are built to sort, query, and visualize massive telco datasets at unprecedented speeds. 

Accelerated analytics tools can function as a digital equity solution that makes it easy to use geospatial big data to create detailed broadband mapping, which is used to facilitate analysis of billions of data points and accurately show the regions that need expanded broadband infrastructure most. AI-driven, accelerated analytics is used to produce these service maps, which help telcos highlight discrepancies in their broadband offer and optimize infrastructure investments. Telcos can also use geospatial analytics and mobility data to better understand where their customers use the most data in space and time and inform the placement of new 5G antennas.

The Issue of Reliability 

Beyond basic access is the issue of reliability. Technology is becoming increasingly weaved into the fabric of our education system. All students will eventually require consistent and reliable broadband Internet access for school, yet not all do. Similarly, hospitals and health care systems must have a digital health equity strategy to make sure all patients have equitable healthcare access. We especially need networks that are always online and accessible during natural disasters and emergencies when services are most needed yet most vulnerable. 

To help enable digital equity in schools and digital equity in healthcare, telecom analysts can leverage accelerated analytics and interactive visualization tools to proactively maintain network reliability across mobile networks in near real-time. If cell networks are failing every time there is a fire or heavy storm, this is a failure that is viewed as an infringement on fundamental human rights. The ability to inspire significant policy change in this country is significantly improved by the use of geospatial visualization systems, which paint a clear and impactful picture of the lack of digital equity for key stakeholders. 

The Heavy.AI Solution 

Geospatial big data is the solution to helping solve many of the most challenging issues facing telecom analysts today. Major telecom industry players and government organizations can use the GPU-accelerated geospatial platform from HEAVY.AI to uncover valuable insights that help pinpoint the most underserved communities. Efficiently explore and cross-filter billions of geospatial big data points, instantly plot and interact with billions of geospatial features, and more, all at the speed of curiosity.

These hardware-accelerated capabilities make it easy to analyze real-time and historical geospatial big data for mission critical use cases. Adopting the latest geospatial enterprise solutions for telecoms is key to leveraging the power of location and accelerating enabling digital equity.


HEAVY.AI (formerly OmniSci) is the pioneer in GPU-accelerated analytics, redefining speed and scale in big data querying and visualization. The HEAVY.AI platform is used to find insights in data beyond the limits of mainstream analytics tools. Originating from research at MIT, HEAVY.AI is a technology breakthrough, harnessing the massive parallel computing of GPUs for data analytics.