Plans and Reports
The Smart Communities program is grounded in research and planning going back to 2007, when the Mayor's Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide was challenged by Mayor Richard M. Daley to “make recommendations to help ensure universal digital access and to improve community, educational, economic and other outcomes.” It continues to generate new research and reports, which will be posted here as they become available.
The City that Networks
Smart Communities is one of several programs that grew out of the May 2007 report, The City that Networks, by the Mayor's Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide. From the introduction:
"The initial goal, then, is for everyone to participate fully in the Internet. If successful, the wireless broadband network itself will make a signal available everywhere — a key first step. This step provides the catalyst for creating universal meaningful participation, where everyone will comfortably integrate the Internet into their daily activities. This level of active and capable participation is digital excellence."
Pilsen Smart Communities Plan
The Pilsen Planning Committee organized a planning process around digital inclusion in 2009 and produced the Pilsen Smart Communities Plan in March 2010. From Section 1:
"Pilsen lags other neighborhoods of Chicago with similar demographics in use of technology, likely due to language barriers for Spanish-speakers. TRP’s own grassroots survey of parents at Cooper Elementary showed 57 percent of 134 respondents have computers in the home, primarily for their children’s benefit. However, only 40 percent have high-speed Internet access at home. Over 65 percent of the respondents said they would be interested in taking computer training classes at Cooper. Local planning meetings also identified privacy and security concerns for families and young children to be a particular challenge, especially within the Latino community."
Southwest Smart Communities Plan
The three Smart Communities on Chicago's Southwest Side – Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn and Englewood – worked together to develop the Southwest Smart Communities Plan, published in March 2010. The plan called for coordinated efforts that would strengthen relationships among the communties. From Section 4:
"As this plan unfolds, residents of the Southwest Smart Communities Partners will enjoy significantly greater public and private access to the Internet in digitally and socially linked communities. Public kiosks, Internet cafés and public web access within local small businesses will make digital technology visible and readily available. A Southwest regional web portal will offer information about community events and job openings and will host a community forum. Youth will create digital arts and media, refurbish computers for home use and train their elders in technology. Small business owners will use electronic bookkeeping and inventory management, and adults will have greater opportunities to learn technology skills and apply them as they build their careers."
Humboldt Park Smart Communities Plan
Humboldt Park residents and leaders used their Smart Communities planning process to advance the goals of their existing 2008 quality-of-life plan. They identified ways that technology could enhance communications and help "connect the dots" between efforts to provide coordinated services, control local development and attract new industries and jobs. The resulting Humboldt Park Smart Communities Plan was published in March 2010. From Section 5:
"Humboldt Park will achieve digital excellence when residents, businesses and institutions in our community have high-speed Internet access, up-to-date hardware and software, a need or interest that is met by technology, and familiarity with and knowledge of technology. . . . This plan is ambitious, but it also very much designed to be implemented. All of the projects in this plan are consistent with the years of planning and implementation that have taken place in our community through the New Communities Program."
Digital Excellence in Chicago: A Citywide View of Technology Use
The City of Chicago commissioned this 2009 study by Karen Mossberger of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Caroline J. Tolbert of the University of Iowa. The researchers used a random-sample telephone survey of 3,453 Chicago residents aged 18 and older, conducted by the University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll in June and July 2008. A major objective was to define the barriers to access for people who do not use the Internet. From the executive summary:
"We asked residents why they did not have the internet at home. The three most common choices . . . were lack of interest, cost, and difficulty of use. There were clear differences between demographic groups in the reasons for being offline or less-connected. Those who are not interested are older; age accounts for the largest influence on interest. Others more likely to say they are not interested are higher-income residents who don’t have the internet, and less-educated residents. African-Americans are less likely than whites to say that they are not interested. Income is the major factor explaining concerns about cost; residents who say they can’t afford the internet are statistically more likely to be low-income. Latinos, and to a lesser extent, African-Americans are also among those more likely to cite cost as a barrier, controlling for other factors.
"Chicago residents who perceive the internet as too difficult are older, less-educated and Latino. African-Americans are less likely than whites to say that the internet is difficult to use. Given that African-Americans who do not have the internet at home are more likely to use it elsewhere, this indicates that skill and interest are not the problem for this group, but cost is an issue for low-income African-Americans. Latinos, in contrast, perceive both cost and skill as barriers, and were also more likely to cite some of the less common reasons for not being online as well."