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The Smart Communities Program aspires to provide households, businesses and institutions in multiple communities with access to an affordable bundle of technology resources that will enable them to increase participation in meaningful digital activities.
The pilot program is part of the City of Chicago’s Digital Excellence Initiative and is being administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago. Five communities have been selected as DEDCs: Humboldt Park, Pilsen (Lower West Side) and the Southwest side communities of Auburn Gresham, Englewood and Chicago Lawn. The New Communities Program (NCP) lead agencies are managing these efforts: Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, The Resurrection Project and a partnership of Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, Greater Southwest Development Corporation/Southwest Organizing Project and Teamwork Englewood.
The program puts into practice the recommendations of The City That NetWorks report of May 2007 by the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide. The report’s vision is that Internet access, hardware, software, education, and mind-set changes will lead to digital transformation and that pilot projects will “test how best to convert digital excellence into personal and community transformation.” These digital excellence “drivers” have framed the planning process in each community:
1. Raising awareness/evolving mind-sets that value learning, connecting and communicating through technology, and that recognize the personal and economic development opportunities of expanding Internet participation.
2. Effective Internet access that is high-speed, affordable and available everywhere.
3. Affordable hardware, with capacity to connect to the Internet and tap into the full range of its resources, and suitable software that meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities.
4. Digital education that provides the training and technical support for users to become comfortable and proficient with technology.
5. Digital programming, skills and content that makes technology relevant and useful to a broad array of users and improves the information flows into and out of neighborhoods
Funded in part by the MacArthur Foundation and the State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development, and with the additional support of many additional public and private sector partners, the program builds upon the quality-of-life plans prepared for each NCP community.
In late March 2010, the City of Chicago was awarded a $7 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant to increase adoption of broadband internet in the Smart Communities. The grant will bring to life the Smart Communities Master Plan, providing computers and training to more than 11,000 residents and 500 businesses and non-profits. Read the project overview.