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Mayor Richard M. Daley today announced the City has received $16 million in federal economic stimulus funds and $5.7 in matching funds which will be used to close the "digital divide" in underserved Chicago communities.
"If we want to improve the quality of life for everyone, we must work to make sure that every resident and business in Chicago has access to 21st century technology in their own neighborhoods and homes," Daley said in a news conference held at Instituto del Progreso Latino, 2570 S. Blue Island Av.
"Creating broadband infrastructure and access to technology in all of our neighborhoods is just as important to cities in the 21st century as paving streets and building water systems and utility systems were in the 19th and 20th centuries," he said.
Daley was joined at the news conference by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration made the $7 million grant under the Sustainable Broadband Adoption Program in March and announced the $9 million grant under the Public Computer Centers Program today.
In addition, city partners including the MacArthur Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, LISC/Chicago, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity provided $1.8 million in matching funds for the first federal grant and $3.9 million in matching funds for the second grant.
Daley said the grants build on two steps the City took last year toward the goal of increasing access to modern technology citywide:
- First, the City announced its "Digital Excellence Action Agenda," which lays out a comprehensive action plan to help close the "digital divide" by expanding technology resources to underserved neighborhoods, enhancing technology skills of residents and small businesses through education and training, and demonstrating how technology can be used to achieve economic growth and enhance opportunity.
- Second, as part of that initiative the City established the "Smart Communities" pilot program, in which residents of five Chicago neighborhoods that need greater access to technology -- Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Humboldt Park and Pilsen -- developed a "master plan" of strategies and projects to show that closing the digital divide could make a real difference in their communities.
The grants announced today will be invested in two separate initiatives.
The Sustainable Broadband Adoption grant and matching funds will help the City move forward with the "Smart Communities" master plan to bring technology to the five pilot communities. It will also create 344 new jobs and help thousands of Chicago residents and businesses emerge from the recession stronger than before. With these funds, the City will:
- Establish six new "FamilyNet Centers" in community centers run by non-profit partners to provide free computer and Internet access to more than 11,000 Chicagoans.
- Present 1,280 residents with netbook computers as an incentive for completing digital training relating to everyday skills, such as financial management, job readiness and communications.
- Establish four new "Business Resource Centers" to help more than 160 entrepreneurs and small businesses grow their companies and create jobs. At these sites, Cisco, one of the world's leading technology companies, will provide free training and access to innovative technology solutions, including video collaboration solutions to enable interactive online meetings.
- Provide 360 small business owners with assessments that help them use technology to make their firms more efficient and successful. And,
- Expand the Chicago Public Library's innovative YOUmedia learning space to three additional neighborhood libraries to support more than 700 teens as they create projects using digital media.
- Provide paid, 8-week, 20-hours-a-week summer internships for 60 young people in the five "Smart Communities".
In addition to doing technology-based work with various private companies and not-for-profit organizations, the young people are receiving weekly training in life skills and job readiness. At the end of the internship, each young person will also receive a MacBook to allow them to continue exploring digital media.
The Public Computer Centers grant and matching funds will be used to reach many more neighborhoods that are in need of more technology resources and more technology training opportunities. With these funds, the City will:
- Establish 20 new public computer centers and expand technology at 132 existing public sites, including libraries, City Colleges, CHA facilities, workforce centers, senior centers, youth centers and community service centers.
- These centers will be located in census tracts where 50% of households are low or moderate income.
- Participants in the Chicago Career Tech workforce development program will help support these centers as part of their technology-focused service learning experiences.
- Deploy more than 2,500 new computers and 878 upgraded workstations, serving almost 900,000 individuals and families. Assistive technologies will be available at all 152 sites to serve persons with disabilities.
- Provide nearly 200,000 new hours of best practices technology training across the City through a new "Digital Skills Initiative", coordinated by the Chicago Community Trust and led by "master" technology teachers.
- This training will help 20,000 job-seekers retool through technology courses that cover online job searching, resume creation, and other workforce-readiness skills.
- It will also assist 20,000 youth, seniors, and families with customized one-on-one or class-based technology training courses.
- And it will support the needs of non-English speakers by offering technology training courses in Spanish, Polish, and Chinese.
"Technology can enhance opportunity, improve knowledge and workforce skills, expand economic development and encourage innovation," Daley said.
"Especially in these tough times, we must roll up our sleeves and redouble our commitment to address the challenges of the digital divide head on," he said."
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