Digital Excellence Initiative (kids using computers)

Innovation and Technology

Digital Excellence Initiative

Publications & Reports

The City That NetWorks: Transforming Society and Economy Through Digital Excellence

This report, completed by the Mayor's Advisory Council for Closing the Digital Divide and published in May 2007, includes a number of recommendations that the City of Chicago can take to "ensure universal digital access and to improve community, educational, economic and other outcomes."

Digital Excellence Action Agenda

This strategic plan, released in July 2009, incorporates many of the recommendations of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide and includes steps that all 46 departments and 6 sister agencies are taking to bridge the digital divide in Chicago.

Digital Excellence in Chicago: A Citywide View of Technology Use (2009)

The University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Iowa conducted a random sample telephone survey of 3,453 Chicagoans, in English and Spanish in 2008. This study, released in July 2009, provides unique data on internet use and digital skills in Chicago obtained through this survey.

Municipal Broadband Market Assessment

The City of Chicago partnered with the City of Boston and the City of San Francisco and commissioned this study, completed in May 2008, to identify promising strategies for major American cities to expand broadband penetration.

U.S. Council of Mayors Resolution

Achieving digital excellence in Chicago depends in part on public policy frameworks created by the federal government. Chicago is working with other cities to support a national policy that meets the needs of urban Americans. This resolution, adopted during the 76th Annual Meeting in June 2008 by the U.S. Council of Mayors, calls for federal action on a national broadband policy.

Smart Communities Master Plan

As part of the Smart Communities program, neighborhood representatives in Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Humboldt Park and Pilsen have developed specific strategies to build awareness of the power of digital technologies; expand digital education for families, individuals and businesses; improve access to technology and the Internet at home and in the community; generate local content and improve access to neighborhood news and resources; and help existing small businesses grow while attracting new businesses to the community.

Community-Specific Plans

City of Chicago Broadband Technology Opportunity Program Grant (BTOP) for Sustainable Broadband Adoption

Information about the grant received by the City of Chicago through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) from the Department of Commerce that enabled the implementation of the Smart Communities Master Plan. 

City of Chicago BTOP Grant for Public Computer Centers

Information about the grant received by the City of Chicago through ARRA from the Department of Commerce that enabled upgraded and expanded access and digital skills training at public computer centers citywide. 

Measuring Change in Internet Use and Broadband Adoption: Comparing BTOP Smart Communities and Other Chicago Neighborhoods

The “Measuring Change in Internet Use and Broadband Adoption: Comparing BTOP Smart Communities and Other Chicago Neighborhoods” study analyzes data from 2008 to 2011 to measure and compare change in internet access, use and online activities among neighborhoods participating in the Smart Communities program and other Chicago neighborhoods. Areas participating in Smart Communities saw a 15 percent higher increase than other Chicago neighborhoods during the span of the study. The study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Partnership for a Connected Illinois.

Smart Communities Program Evaluation

These Smart Communities and Broadband Evaluation, published by Arizona State University's Center for Policy Informatics provide a unique view of neighborhood-level change on digital inclusion programming in five Chicago communities. The analysis shows the Smart Communities neighborhoods experienced during the five-year period a greater rate of growth in several areas: Internet use (in any location); home broadband adoption; use of the Internet for job search, mass transit and health information The Smart Communities program aims to increase Internet use and to establish a “culture of digital excellence” in nine low and moderate-income community areas of the city of Chicago. The vision of the Smart Communities is to harness the Internet to improve the opportunities of residents and the quality of life in the target communities (Smart Communities Master Plan, 2010). The program was funded by a $7 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant to the City of Chicago from 2010-2012, and was implemented by a partnership of the Chicago Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and community organizations. Evaluation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Partnership for a Connected Illinois.

Digital Excellence in Chicago: Tracking Trends in Internet Use, 2008-2013

Since the 2007 report of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide, the City of Chicago has worked with a number of partners to promote widespread adoption and use of the Internet. Initiatives have included the federally-funded Smart Communities program in nine neighborhoods and Smart Chicago public computer centers throughout the city, as well as FamilyNet Centers supported by the City of Chicago, Americorps, and Comcast. During this period, Comcast also began the Internet Essentials program, offering discounted broadband to eligible households. Change over the period of these initiatives is measured through citywide surveys that were funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2008, and by the Partnership for a Connected Illinois through a federal broadband mapping grant in 2011 and 2013. Prior reports using the citywide surveys have shown that from 2008 to 2013, the 9 Smart Communities neighborhoods had higher increases than similar Chicago neighborhoods in several areas: for Internet use (anywhere), broadband adoption at home, and some activities online (see Measuring Change in Internet Use and Broadband Adoption at https://www.cpi.asu. edu). This report examines more general patterns of change across the city.