New Measure of Digital Participation and Economic Opportunity in Communities: Data on 20 Million Domain Name Websites

A new study is being released along with a website that will make new data on digital participation in communities publicly available.  Through collaboration with GoDaddy, the world’s largest registrar of domain names, researchers from the University of Iowa and Arizona State University gained access to de-identified data on “ventures."  A venture is the term used by GoDaddy to describe discrete domain name websites that are actively being used.  Ventures may be businesses, nonprofits, causes or ideas that owners put online.

The density of ventures in a community indicates the extent of online activity in the aggregate, providing new insight into a previously unmeasured dimension of local technology use and capacity. It offers for the first time a clear view of a hidden aspect of communities in the digital economy, unknown because of a lack of publicly available data.

The study and website data show how the density of domain name websites in a community (the number of ventures per 100 people in a county or a zip code), is related to local prosperity and economic opportunity. 

  • Density of ventures significantly predicts prosperity for counties and zip codes (on an index includes employment, businesses, workforce participation, poverty, etc.).  Analysis controls for other factors and the relationship is even stronger using two-stage causal models.
  • Density of ventures is also significant for recovery from the recession (2007-2016)
  • Ventures are also related to a higher rate of change in median income from 2016 to 2017, and from 2016 to 2018.  For each highly active venture, median household income in a county rises by an average of $331.  This compares with an average rate of change of $1700 for all counties, so the $331 is a 19 percentage-point difference.  For 2016-2018, each highly active venture is associated with a $408 increase, controlling for other factors.

Exploring this digitally enabled activity is important for understanding the full impact of technology and future evolution of the economy. This is especially true in the context of rising inequality across places and its consequences for economic opportunity. Ventures represent a resource in diverse communities, large and small, urban and rural. They have the potential to promote community resilience in the wake of the 2020 pandemic.

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