WASHINGTON—Some minority communities can lag behind in efforts to digitally map their small businesses, so municipalities that directly contact the underserved inevitably uncover a wealth of data on otherwise “off-the-grid” citizens.
Visual displays of minority-owned businesses are critical to a city’s economic development, but not everyone has a computer, Wi-Fi access, or a smartphone, Sylvester “Sly” James, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, said Wednesday at the United States Conference of Mayors winter meeting.
James spoke at a morning meeting of the conference’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Task Force, emphasizing the need for cities to close their digital divides.
“The one thing that is most powerful is face-to-face contact, so we’ve tried to do that and I certainly get out in the minority community,” James, Kansas City’s second African-American mayor, said. “We talk about our digital platform and tweet about it because—in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat—face-to-face interaction is what people on the receiving end appreciate the most.”
Kansas City was one of the first municipalities to utilize Google’s Get Your Business Online citywide, though the 5-year-old program has since given way to the scalable Get Your City on Google Maps initiative.