Accelerating Innovation for Inclusion

The digital revolution is changing the way people move, work, and interact with information and services. Governments can leverage new technologies to create more inclusive communities by developing systems that ensure benefits and services are accessible to all residents who need them. This will require that leaders design new systems built around equity and inclusion. But important questions remain about how and where new technologies can contribute to equity and inclusion and how to build upon existing systems without recreating the disparities of the past.  

Supported with a grant from the Mastercard Impact Fund, in collaboration with Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, the Urban Institute will fill critical knowledge gaps on what the digital transition means to cities and states in the US. Urban’s experts will develop tools that policymakers can use to target investments aimed at reducing inequities and increasing pathways to upward mobility.

Our research will focus on four “keys” to the inclusive city: 

  1. Adaptive Tools to Promote Economic Mobility: With access to tools that take advantage of new and extensive data on economic indicators such as housing markets, consumer spending patterns, and business development, cities can promote policies and encourage investments in ways that support more inclusive and effective community economic development and economic mobility. 
  2. Modernized Benefits Delivery: By leveraging technology and advances in data analytics, cities can improve access, usage, and disbursement of government benefits, with a focus on increased equity and inclusion.
  3. Digitized Service Delivery: Through increased digital capacity and data analytics, cities and states can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their service delivery while ensuring more equitable access and usage.
  4. Integrated Systems for Physical Mobility:  By integrating non-traditional transportation technologies like electric scooters, docked and dockless bikes, car sharing, and ridesharing into existing public transportation networks, cities can help to promote more equitable and inclusive access to job opportunities, education, child care, and other critical services to close gaps created by geography and legacy infrastructure.

Learn more about this effort here.

Affiliated Researchers

Richard Ezike, Erika PoethigSolomon Greene, Brett Theodos, Kathy Pettit, Mark Treskon, Tina Stacy, Kristin Blagg, Alena Stern, Graham MacDonald,Khuloud Odeh, Heather Hahn, and Rayanne Hawkins

Reports, blog posts, and events

Racial and economic inequities in the US are growing, and rapid technological change can either promote inclusion or widen this divide. City leaders can use technological innovations to manage infrastructure and improve services, communicate with constituents, and make better decisions. But they must also be aware of the challenges that come with the disruptive force of new technological advancements. This report, which is based on a literature review and interviews with experts, explores trends in four areas of technological change: smart infrastructure, shared mobility, civic technology, and technology-enhanced data analytics. We identify how those trends could exacerbate or mitigate inequality in cities, and we provide examples of cities that are leveraging these trends and innovations to advance equity goals. We also synthesize cross-cutting themes and recommend principles to guide local efforts to harness technological innovation and create more equitable cities.


Technology and Equity in Cities