How Resolve Philly’s Equally Informed bridges the city’s digital divide

Lily Medosch, Gabriela Rivera, Kristine Villanueva
Gabriela Rivera talking with a community member at a “Cafe and Empanadas” event in August 2020

Strengthening engagement strategies means learning from trial and error.

Information access is always important. But during a pandemic, it becomes a matter of life and death. In March 2020, as the coronavirus made its way to Philadelphia, our team at Resolve Philly knew that this moment in time would bring about change, uncertainty, and rapidly evolving public health guidance. We couldn’t help but think about the larger Philadelphia community, especially people who don’t have access to news and other resources essential to staying connected and informed.

Enter Equally Informed Philly (EIP), Resolve’s newest initiative. EIP bridges Philadelphia’s digital divide by building relationships with residents, community organizations and sharing local news, information, and resources. We host and participate in community events, distribute a community-driven print newsletter and run our Equal Info text line, a free Q&A service available in English and Spanish that provides subscribers with vital information during the pandemic.

The digital and information gap in Philly is pervasive. In April 2020, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that about 16% of Philly households lack internet. The pandemic only worsened these gaps. We knew bridging this divide would need a strong offline approach.

It hasn’t been the smoothest ride fleshing out these projects. Our first attempt at a strategy for this initiative was to create a centralized and embeddable collection of FAQ’s of COVID-19 resources, but we realized that this was not going to be the best approach because of how quickly information was changing and keeping up for our small team was not feasible. By the time we were able to build our website, information had continued to rapidly change and dissemination of resources improved — thanks to the solutions journalism coming from our Broke in Philly partners and the work of community organizations.

Ultimately, we decided it was unnecessary to replicate good work already being done. (See this post from Julie Christie, Resolve’s Data and Impact Editor for more background on our decision to change course). In place of the FAQ, we took inspiration from Outlier Media, a service journalism organization based in Detroit, and zeroed in on creating a personalized text line to communicate with Philly residents. Similarly, our Equal Info Line would be a place where city residents could ask questions about COVID — and also about anything else related to living and working in Philly during the pandemic. We experimented with a few different layouts and advertising methods throughout the summer, and then formally launched the Equal Info Line’s weekly news and information service in August last year.

So, what does this service feel like for someone using the line? Say you’re reading an article on Kensington Voice or one of our other Broke in Philly partner websites and you stumble across one of our digital advertisements for Equally Informed Philly.

A yellow and blue advertisement for Resolve Philly's Equal Info Line. It reads Don't be Misinformed be Equally Informed. Text "EqualInfo" to 73224 for answers and resources to survive and thrive in Philly.

Advertisement for the Equal Info Line


You’re looking to nourish yourself and your family and decide to text in, asking about existing food programs in your neighborhood. Here’s a look at what your texting experience might look like.

A selection of texts from the Equal Info Team with users of the Info Line.

Here’s a look at how to use the Equal Info Line


Still, our text line is not just about answering questions. By signing up for the Equal Info Line, you’ll automatically receive at least two texts a week with vetted and actionable information that’s sourced from our newsroom partners, local government, or community-based organizations. Some examples of our weekly texts include assistance program deadlines and details, and updates on COVID-19 guidelines and vaccine distribution. When the Department of Public Health announced that Philly would be moving into a new phase of vaccine distribution, we shared that ASAP, along with news of their new vaccine interest form that allows residents to receive updates about their vaccination group. With certain topics and issues, we sometimes include open-ended questions to hear community perspectives and thoughts.

We also use these info push-outs to address timely information needs and gaps. In the late summer and fall we launched a new digital advertising campaign to promote the text line as a means to address uncertainties around voting.


With the help of reporting from our Broke in Philly collaborative partners and their extensive voting guides, along with a cohort of legal election volunteers, we received text messages from over 500 people about the election and the voting process and literally got Philadelphians out to vote. We received messages from texters asking a range of questions like: When is the last day to request a ballot? And how can I fix a naked ballot? Through follow-up texts, we confirmed that we helped over 150 people locate their nearest satellite election office.

A Equal Info Line advertisement with the text "Want to vote without the drama? Text EqualInfo to 73224" over a background of orange circles.

Advertisement for the Equal Info Line’s voting support services