First Connect Chicago Meetup Draws Array of Partners

Last Friday, more than two dozen people who provide technology access and digital skills training in the city gathered at the Chicago Community Trust for the inaugural Meetup of Connect Chicago.

Last Friday, more than two dozen people who provide technology access and digital skills training in the city gathered at the Chicago Community Trust for the inaugural Meetup of Connect Chicago.

Last Friday, more than two dozen people who provide technology access and digital skills training in the city gathered at the Chicago Community Trust for the inaugural Meetup of Connect Chicago.

Last Friday, more than two dozen people who provide technology access and digital skills training in the city gathered at the Chicago Community Trust for the inaugural Meetup of Connect Chicago. Continue reading

ClearStreets: Another Great Project Benefitting from Space on the Smart Chicago EC2 Account

As we noted in the launch post about Adopt-A-Sidewalk, tonight marks the first storm here in Chicago this winter. That means it is the first time this season that snowplows have been deployed by the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation. Here’s a list of all the 669 employees in that department with the word “driver” in their job title:

Drivers in Streets + San

These are the people doing the essential work that keeps our city safe and operating smoothly. They deserve a lot of credit.

So plows on the street mean the City’s PlowTracker is in action, showing the plows in real time:

PlowTracker 2012 -- Start of Winter Storm Draco

New this year– works in mobile!

PlowTracker on a Galaxy Note II

And PlowTracker up and running means that ClearStreets has data to show you where the plows have been:


Yesterday the people behind ClearStreets, including Derek Eder, who works as a contractor for a number of map-focused Smart Chicago projects, including Chicago Health Atlas, Chicago Early Learning (along with Azavea out of Philly), and Connect Chicago, needed a place to run some scripts that help ClearStreets run. They’re using civic data, are helping make lives better, and otherwise meet our criteria for inclusion in our free hosting program, so they’re up and running on our account.

We host a number of other projects there, including Twitter classification experiments that track illness and learning management systems that store free digital training. We’ve got 17 instances with our own projects and those from the larger OpenGov community in Chicago.

This is where Smart Chicago sits— founded by the municipal government and some of the City’s largest philanthropic institutions, directly funding civic developers to work on important projects, hosting gatherings where developers get together to talk policy and write code, providing real (through our seats at 1871) and virtual space for innovation.

Let it snow.

Adopt-A-Sidewalk is Re-Launched Along With Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago Shovels Program (Just in Time!)

Mayor Emanuel Announces Chicago Shovels for 2012

The Smart Chicago Collaborative is proud be a part of Chicago Shovels, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s initiative to help connect the public with City winter resources and empower neighbors to come together to help Chicago navigate winter. We worked with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Code for America Brigade to re-launch of Adopt-A-Sidewalk.

As part of the Race for Reuse Campaign at Code for America, local civic hackers helped to move the City of Chicago’s Adopt-A-Sidewalk app onto servers hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, document the code, and publish it as a fresh instance to Github. This means that developers can continue to improve the site by adding new features and continuing to integrate additional data sets as the city expands on its data offerings.

The Race for Reuse is a nationwide effort to help redeploy civic apps all across the country with 28 cities helping to deploy 31 civic apps. Adopt-A-Sidewalk was originally built as the Boston-focused Adopt-a-Hydrant app that lets citizens adopt hydrants that they agree to take care of in the event of snow.

Chicago has modified this code and added map files of every sidewalk in the city. Residents can claim sidewalks during snow events (like tonight!)– pledging to shovel their own walks or take care of a neighbor’s 25 feet of love. If you can’t shovel your walk and need help, The app will also let people indicate that they need help with their sidewalk. Volunteers can then go into the app and adopt that particular sidewalk.

This Vista Never Fails Me: Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk in First Snowfall, December 2010

Lots of people worked on this app. Chief among them is Ryan Briones. He is an IT Director for Software Architecture and Design at the City’s Department of Innovation and Technology, but he worked to configure the server and document the code on his evenings, civic hacker-style. He is longtime member of OpenGovChicago and just flat-out cares about this stuff.

Christopher Whittaker, the Code for America Brigade Captain here in Chicago, shepherded the entire process and did a goodly amount of tweaking as well. He is a tireless organizer and he’s been a a continued link to the key national Code for America organization, from which all of this sprung.

When Adopt A Sidewalk launched last February, it was set up mainly by a group of dedicated team centered around the Obama for America tech team. This included Scott VanDenPlas,  Aaron Salmon, Arun Sivashankaran, Ben Hagen, Chris Gansen, Jason Kunesh, Jesse Kriss, Nick Leeper, Ryan Kolak, Paul Smith, and Scott Robbin.

This time around, Michael Barrientos and Emily Rosengren worked to get us to launch. Derek Eder gave some advice, Rebecca Ackerman enabled zoom, and Joe Olson of Tracklytics helped with DNS configuration.

Chicago is no stranger to community technology for the wintry mix. In 2011, a great group of people emanating from the Chicago Tribune news apps team that created and worked the ChicagoSnow Crowdmap (Ask for help, lend a hand: Blizzard 2011). We spent a couple nights managing and mapping 984 snow help reports for the blizzard of February 1, 2011. Here’s a super-detailed writeup. It was a great test case in community building around a weather event.

People interested in civic hacking are encouraged to meet to talk policy, data, and technology at the OpenGovChicago meetup group. You can also head over to the Open Gov Hack Nights at 1871 located inside the Merchandise Mart. These growing gatherings, hosted and supported in part by Smart Chicago, are a great way to get a mitt and get in the game on civic hacking.

Here’s a video explaining the program:

Chicago Launches Website to Help Parents Find Preschool Programs (Education Week)

Here’s an article about Chicago Early Learning in Education Week.


The website, complete with an interactive map, helps parents find neighborhood options by entering their addresses and provides information so they can compare programs. A texting feature is available so parents can get information on their phones without having to access the Internet. The site also notes which programs are “accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children and will eventually include information about each program’s statewide rating once the Illinois Quality Rating Improvement System is launched,” the release say

The Launch of Chicago Early Learning

Today marked the launch of Chicago Early Learning, a new way to find and compare early learning programs in Chicago.

Here’s some snips from the press release from the Mayor’s Office:

As part of the his administration’s focus on increasing access to quality early learning programs for children across the city and emphasis on helping parents get and stay involved in their children’s education, Mayor Rahm Emanuel today launched a new online Early Leaning Portal, The portal is an easy-to-use, interactive website that puts information about hundreds of quality early learning programs across the city all in one place.


“We were happy to collaborate with the City on this interactive map, which will allow parents and families to find information about these programs easily and quickly. We’re interested in hearing from parents and caregivers on what would make the site more useful to them,” said Dan O’Neil, Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative. “We’re also releasing the code for the site as open source, so that it can be used to make similar map-based sites showing resources across the city.”

“Our focus is on making sure children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. M.K. and I share Mayor Emanuel’s strong commitment to providing high-quality early learning for infants, toddlers and their families,” said J.B. Pritzker, president of the J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation. “Helping Chicago parents and caregivers identify the best early childhood educational opportunities in their neighborhoods is critically important. This online interactive, one-stop shop will help parents and caregivers access and better manage the challenging process of selecting a high-quality early learning program for their infants and toddlers.”

Here’s the code that drives the site.

Chicago Early Learning

Here’s a spot on CBS about the site featuring Kevin Hauswirth of the Mayor’s Office:

Review of Chicago Early Learning Portal on CBS with Kevin Hauswirth from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

We worked with a really great team to get this first phase of the Web site launched:

  • At Smart Chicago, we had consultant Derek Eder of DataMade. Derek served as local technical technical project manager and was instrumental in getting the data for the site in good order
  • Azavea, a leading geospatial firm out of Philadelphia, did the heavy lifting around technology
  • The Urban Education Lab of the University of Chicago shepherded the project from the education perspective and worked with other stakeholders like Illinois Action for Children to make sure that the data was sound and the interface was useful key constiuents

We look forward to working toward a successful phase two, which will incorporate feedback from user testing we’ll be conducting in the months to come. Questions, comments, and feedback are always welcome at