Archives: PCC

Smart Chicago Collaborative and the City’s Technology Plan

Earlier this month, Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva unveiled the city’s very first technology plan. The plan was a result of a year-long process of research, brainstorming, and thinking about how to make all of Chicago competitive in the new digital economy.

This plan is a comprehensive framework for growing Chicago’s technology sector , getting broadband connectivity for everyone, and  ensuring that Chicago remains a leader in open government data .

The plan also highlights the work that the civic technology community has been doing in Chicago. From the weekly OpenGov Hack Nights, the Smart Communities Program, and youth STEM programs; Chicago already enjoys a strong set of technology strengths and this plan will enable the city to advance even further.

Smart Chicago Collaborative is proud to have a key role in many of these initiatives and is dedicated to  implementing this plan. Here’s a look at our role in the plan and the aspects of our existing work in this context.


More than 1,000 Photos of Public Computer Centers and Community Technology Centers Were Taken in the Connect Chicago Summer of Data

The Connect Chicago Summer of Data is almost over. 14 canvassers travelled the city to visit more than 200 Public Computer Centers and Community Technology Centers. They interviewed center staff, updated detail pages, and took many, many photos.

We outfitted each 2-person team with an iPad that allowed them to take high-quality photos of building exteriors, computer stations, and community rooms. The idea was that as people prepared to visit a public computer center, the more they knew about the place they were about to visit, the more confident they would be about it.

Ends up that the teams took hundreds of great photos. See them all here.

Northeast Senior Center

Here’s all of them, in a slideshow:

The Launch of Connect Chicago

Today we’re announcing the launch of Connect Chicago,  a loose network of more than 250 places in the city where internet and computer access, digital skills training, and online learning resources are available—for free.

By way of background, Connect Chicago is a part of the Public Computer Centers grant (award No. 17-42-B10553) received by the City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has also awarded a grant to support this project. Smart Chicago administers many portions of this grant, including the Connect Chicago portion. We also administer funds for the City’s Sustainable Broadband Adoption grant.

All of our work at Smart Chicago under the BTOP grants is managed by Francesca Rodriquez, the Director of Technology Adoption and Digital Skills at DoIT. Here’s a graphic created by Francesca illustrating the great work across the City’s entire BTOP PCC grant:

Most of the locations in the Connect Chicago system have been serving the community for many, many years. Wi-fi and public computers have been available in the Chicago Public Library for more than a decade. Community technology centers— supported in part with programs like the State of Illinois’ Eliminate the Digital Divide Program (going back to 2001)— have been essential parts of neighborhoods for many years. Home-grown classes on social media and photo sharing have been taught in senior centers since the days of Friendster. This robust, caring, and rich environment is the basis for our work.

The campaign around this launch has a number of components:

  • A website at, with a listing of all locations and a listing of training opportunities:
  • A bus, rail, and kiosk advertising campaign announcing the network and directing people to the Web site and 311. This includes ads on all city-owned newsracks and many bus shelters. See the ad campaign here.
  • A new information pack for the city’s 311 service, which continues to be the front line support for residents looking to connect with technology resources. Connect Chicago is replacing the City’s Tech Locator tool, which has served as the main source of information for the 311 call center for the last few years
  • An admin tool based on Google Fusion Tables
  • A series of meetups for you and / or your staff to show you the website and other Connect Chicago resources and train you on how to maintain your own location detail pages
  • Press release, blog posts, and other media to carry the Connect Chicago message

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.

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:

Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

Many current Smart Chicago projects involve the administration of the grants received by the City of Chicago under the U.S. Department of CommerceNational Institute of Standards and Technology under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) for Sustainable Broadband Adoption and the support of Public Computer Centers. As you can see in each of the project pages for our BTOP work, we are delivering on the promise of this important Federal money. Beyond BTOP, however, lies the central challenge for Smart Chicago– to create a funding and innovation framework for making sure every Chicagoan has sustainable access to the Internet and have access to meaningful applications that make their  lives better in concrete ways. Following is information about the two grants administered in partnership with the City under this program:

Award No. 17-43-B10507, for Sustainable Broadband Adoption The SmartChicago SBA project page on the NTIA Web site has a wealth of information, including the project application, the award agreement, and quarterly reports filed by the City. Here’s the project summary:

The SmartChicago Sustainable Broadband Adoption program intends to spur economic development in five disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago with a comprehensive broadband awareness and adoption program that will include providing computers and training opportunities to more than 11,000 residents and 500 small businesses and not-for-profits. The project intends to create public computer centers at six community centers for working families and expand workstation capacity at four Business Resource Centers, as well as provide 1,500 residents and small businesses who complete a multi-session training course with laptops and netbooks. SmartChicago plans to conduct a citywide multilingual broadband awareness campaign that will reach an estimated 200,000 residents, including ads on radio, TV, print, and city buses; outreach by local community organizations in each neighborhood; and the creation of neighborhood-based Web portals.

LISC/ Chicago is the key entity managing this important project, and they maintain the Smart Communities Web site with a wealth of information about their great work.

Award No. 17-42-B10553 for Public Computer Centers The SmartChicago PCC project page on the NTIA Web site has a wealth of information, including the project application, the award agreement, and quarterly reports filed by the City. Here’s the project summary:

According to a 2009 study commissioned by the City of Chicago, as many as 40 percent of city residents lack home broadband access, making libraries and other public computer centers essential resources for employment, training, and educational opportunities. Over 60 percent of Chicago libraries now report average wait times for a computer of three hours or longer. The SmartChicago Public Computer Centers project proposes a wide-scale upgrade and expansion of workstation capacity at more than 150 locations, including city libraries, community colleges, public housing sites, workforce centers, senior centers, after-school programs, and other community locations throughout Chicago. The project will provide hundreds of thousands of hours of training, including digital literacy instruction and assistance for job seekers. The project plans a specific focus on low-income residents, at-risk youth, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and the unemployed.

Smart Chicago has a number of sub-recipients performing the work under this award.