Good News!!! The Smart Chicago team is moving and now will be co-located with the City Digital Team at UI Labs. As such, our individual emails will be changing to:

Kyla Williams 

Sonja Marziano

Denise Linn     

Leslie Durr       

Our new mailing address is 1415 N. Cherry Avenue Chicago, IL 60642 and general phone number is 312.281.6900.

Please check our website at or follow us on twitter @smartchicago for more updates.

We appreciate your patience during this time of transition.

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.

Continue reading

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!