Initiative 4

Establish a smart community benchmark and toolkit for broadband access and use

As an initiative of the World Business Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, LISC Chicago and the Smart Chicago Collaborative (SCC), working with public and civic partners, including the Chicago Public Library (CPL), will create a profile of a fully connected community that can be used as a benchmark, along with a toolkit of best practices, to help communities reach this standard of broadband access and use.

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Humboldt Kids

The benchmark will serve as the prototype of a “smart community,” against which all communities can create an action plan to improve the adoption and use of broadband technology. It will also help communities employ technology strategically across business development and growth, workforce and skill development, education, health care, public safety, civic engagement, and social connectedness. The benchmark will use UIC Professor Karen Mossberger’s research on broadband adoption and utilization in Chicago to set appropriate targets for key performance indicators. Additional guidance will come from the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and the Institute of Museum & Library Services’ “Building Digital Communities: A Framework for Action” blueprint. The work of partner organizations in Connect Chicago—Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), Chicago-Cook Workforce Partnership (CC-WP), City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), and dozens of independent community technology centers—will also inform this benchmark.

The toolkit will be a collection of best practices developed by LISC and the SCC with 2011-2013 federal stimulus grant awards for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) and Public Computer Centers (PCC) programs. The SBA program, known as the Smart Communities initiative and run by LISC Chicago, is a demonstration of how investing deeply in technology, education, and content in five Chicago neighborhoods can help achieve digital excellence. The PCC program, known as Connect Chicago, provides broad investments to provide free access to the Internet for people in every area of the city. Incorporating key success and lessons learned from the Smart Communities and Connect Chicago models, the toolkit will be made available for all Chicago communities to help them reach the benchmark’s standard of broadband adoption and use.4

“Smart Communities” is just the smart thing to do. It is an important step in securing and sustaining Chicago’s global leadership, which depends in large measure on the full realization of its human capital, the strength of its business sector and the vitality of its communities—all enhanced through transformative use of new media and the Internet.

Julia Stasch
Vice President, U.S. Programs
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation