Request for Letters of Interest for an Early Childhood Portal

The Smart Chicago Collaborative and the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Lab are seeking letters of interest for the design and development of an early childhood education web portal for the City of Chicago.

In order to increase transparency and empower parents, the City of Chicago is partnering with the Smart Chicago Collaborative and the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Lab (UEL) to develop a comprehensive early childhood education web portal. The portal will serve as a one-stop-shop for finding early learning programs, assessing program quality, and tracking data about Chicago’s early childhood systems. With the implementation of the State’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), parents will be able to view each program’s star rating to assess quality across the city. The portal will also help parents understand their child’s eligibility for program, and allow for user interaction/input regarding programs. The portal will be fully operational by the end of July 2012, in time for parents to use it as a resource for the next school year.

This request for letters of interest is the first step in the process of finding a vendor, consultant, or group of consultants for the design and development of the web portal. We are looking for letters of interest that demonstrate an aptitude for and experience in this type of work, as well as some initial thoughts on how to execute it. We welcome letters from design firms, technology outfits, and independent developers who have ideas on how to get this done. The Web Portal Design partner for this project will be required to:

  • Work at the direction of the Smart Chicago Collaborative.
  • Work with researchers affiliated with the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab who will provide input on content, how it is presented, and the possible incorporation of experiments aimed at trying to learn about how to make the portal as helpful to parents as possible, and to better understand the decision making of low-income parents around schooling and related issues.
  • Discovery: Discuss goals, objectives, and methodology. Become familiar with all relevant information to design the best possible system, including reviewing all existing school lookup tools in Chicago (CPS School Finder, SchoolLocator, ArtLook), similar tools in other jurisdictions, and commercial options.
  • Development: Be open to using as much open source code as possible.
  • Wireframes: Create the best possible user experience with thoughtful attention to user flows, the feel of the application, and creating a real community around the information.
  • Design: Engage in a classic graphic design process for the portal, including logo, colors, themes, etc.
  • Mapping: Develop a mapping system, using as much open source code as possible
  • Commenting: Develop a commenting system to encourage the sharing of the most reliable information possible within the site

In the letter of interest, applicants should demonstrate experience, aptitude, and capacity in relation to the work described above. In addition, applicants should provide an estimated project timeline and a budget proposal. Letters of interest should not exceed three single-spaced pages, including budget and timeline information, and should be submitted to Dan O’Neil at Brief bios, CVs, or resumes for key personnel should be submitted with letters of interest and will not be included within the three page limit. Letters are due April 13, 2012.

Download this document as a PDF.

New Computer Lab Planned for Harold Washington College

Earlier this week I visited Harold Washington College, 30 E. Lake, to check on progress for the new public computer center there that is being funded in part by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Public Computer Center grant that is being administered by Smart Chicago. There are already a number of computers available to the public at this location through this grant, and soon there will be a huge addition of public computers in the loop.

There are currently seven computers in the lobby of the building that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

There are 14 computers on the second floor available to the public and there are stations near the elevators on floors 4, 7, and 10.

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Harold Washington College staff are now making plans to make the large, 135-station computer lab available to the public as well. Currently only available to students, this lab will soon have open hours for the public. The room includes printing stations and lab aides who can help troubleshoot any issues.

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Harold Washington College Public Computer Centers

Stay tuned for more information on these public resources!

New Public Computer Center Planned for Truman College

As part of our work with the City of Chicago in implementing their Broadband Technology Opportunities Program awards, we make site visits to the various program facilities to see how things are going. Yesterday we got a look at the great things that are planned for Truman College, 1145 West Wilson, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

Soon there will be a 40-station computer lab in a classroom on the first floor of this location. The lab is planned for the northwest corner of the building:

Preparations for Public Computer Center at Truman College

There are 40 HP Compaq 8200 Elite All-in-One Business PCs ready to go into the computer lab.

Preparations for Public Computer Center at Truman College

The lab is right off of the large lobby, where community activities such as voting and tax preparation are held.

Preparations for Public Computer Center at Truman College

There is currently no public access to computers at Truman College. That’s why we’re excited to help bring more than 40 new public computers to Uptown. Stay tuned for opening information this Spring or early summer.

Smart Communities Formative Evaluation Report

As part of their commitment to the Smart Communities program and the city’s Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program projects, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation funds research by Karen Mossberger, Ph.D, of the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Public Administration in connection with Smart Chicago’s Sustainable Broadband Adoption grant.

Here’s Dr. Mossberger’s the full report and a snippet from the Executive Summary of Dr. Mossberger’s highly informative report on this innovative program.

The Smart Communities Program aims to build a culture of technology use and digital excellence in five low and moderate-income community areas of the city of Chicago: Pilsen, Humboldt Park, and Southwest Chicago (which is a collaboration between the Englewood, Auburn Gresham, and Chicago Lawn neighborhoods). The program is funded through a $7 million federal Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA)1 grant for the purpose of increasing broadband adoption in underserved communities through outreach and training.

This formative evaluation reviews the progress of implementation from the award of the federal grant at the end of March 2010 through June 30, 2011, which is the end of the second quarter of 2011 for purposes of federal reporting. The report is intended to provide information for continuing the process of implementation, for consideration of future projects, and for the later outcome evaluation.
The Smart Communities program consists of several component programs designed to reach multiple constituencies throughout the target neighborhoods:

  • FamilyNet Centers for EveryDay Digital training and drop-in assistance; — Technology Organizers within each of the community areas who do outreach and conduct Civic 2.0 training for community organizations;
  • Business Resource Networks that offer assessments and assistance for neighborhood businesses with less than 500 employees;
  • YouMedia programs for youth established in neighborhood libraries;
  • Digital Youth Network after-school programs, with locations in each of the community areas;
  • Digital Youth Summer Jobs available to participants from the Smart Communities areas;
  • Community Portals supported by portal managers (in each of the 5 communities)

Additionally, these programs are supported by an awareness campaign across the communities, and by an earned computer program that will benefit some of the training participants.

The program is an ambitious one, with multiple organizations and activities spread across five communities. All programs have now been implemented, and most of the programs were operating by the end of 2010. Some were late, however, particularly the awareness campaign, the YouMedia programs, and the Englewood FamilyNet Center, all of which began in late summer of 2011. The delays for these projects were due to contract issues in some cases, although in others there were changes in leadership in collaborating organizations.

Demand for training was higher than anticipated, and waiting lists formed at the FamilyNet Centers as they began to offer classes in late 2010. Centers have devised ways to pace outreach and manage waiting lists, but the training continues to be popular, with few dropouts. The classes are free, and taught in Spanish as well as English. FamilyNet Center participants often have some experience online – a little over half have used the Internet somewhere, and a little over one-third have Internet access at home. But, they report low levels of skill when they enter the programs, and more than one-quarter of the participants have a formal education at the eighth grade level or below. Only 15 percent of participants are currently employed. Other training programs – the Civic 2.0 programs for community organizations – attract residents who have slightly more experience online, as well as others who have no familiarity with technology. Across sites, both staff and consultants spoke about the powerful differences the programs make in the lives of residents, opening new doors and conveying a new sense of empowerment through their Internet skills. By any account, there are many successes evident in the program.

1 The Sustainable Broadband Adoption grants are part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), or broadband stimulus grants of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Download the complete report here.

Smart Chicago and Code for America Meet With Mayor Rahm Emanuel About Open311

Last month the Smart Chicago Collaborative, the Code for America Chicago fellows, and our key City partners met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to discuss our Open311 project. We got some great feedback from the Mayor and we’re excited about moving forward to the next phase of the project. More to come!

Code for America Fellows, Smart Chicago, Chicago CTO, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel discusses Chicago’s Code for America (CfA) project with Chief Technology Officer John Tolva, the CfA project team, and the Smart Chicago Collaborative. From the Mayor’s left: Ben Sheldon, Code for America, Rob Brackett, Code for America, Daniel X. O’Neil, Smart Chicago Collaborative, Kathleen Strand, Mayor’s Office, John Tolva, Mayor’s Office, Kyla Williams, Smart Chicago Collaborative, Danielle DuMerer, Department of Innovation and Technology, Angel Kittiyachavalit, Code for America, Jesse Bounds, Code for America.

Grand Opening of the Dearborn Technology Center

March 7, 2012 marked the grand opening of the Dearborn Technology Center at 2910 S. Dearborn. This program is administered in part by Smart Chicago under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program Public Computer Centers grant that we administer under a subaward from the City of Chicago.

Grand Opening of Dearborn Homes Technology Center

This launch was made possible by the great work of the Chicago Housing Authority and their partner, TEC Services. Here’s a snip from the press release from the CHA:

CHA CEO Charles Woodyard was on hand to commemorate the opening of the lab, equipped with 28 computers. John Tolva, the City of Chicago’s Chief Technology Officer, was also on hand to celebrate the occasion, along with officials from City of Chicago and The Chicago Community Trust.

“This Technology Center will help link Dearborn Homes and its residents to the broader Chicago area, with its resources and employment opportunities,” Woodyard said. “Also, this center will be staffed by current or former CHA residents, who have spent months in training to be training coordinators and technical support staff.”

The Dearborn Homes Technology Center is the first of seven technology centers that will open in separate CHA developments around the city over the next two years. The Altgeld Gardens Technology Center opened in 2010 and updated in 2011.

Here’s a video showcasing the lab and explaining the features of the lab, the unique build-out, and the employment program:

See more images from the opening here.

Grand Opening of Dearborn Homes Technology Center

Grand Opening of Dearborn Homes Technology Center

Grand Opening of Dearborn Homes Technology Center

Here’s a flyer about the programs available at Dearborn Homes: