Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2014

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 71 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The Responsive City: Chicago One of Chicago's frst digital-organizing successes was a system that maps and reports dangerous building conditions in the southwestern part of the city. By Stephen Goldsmith and Susan Crawford / Harvard University D aniel O'Neil wants to use digital tools to give a voice to people who aren't on traditional city government's map. "If you're not in the network, you're invisible," he says. "You don't matter. And everybody matters. Which means they have to be in the network. And not just on the Internet. But meaningfully. And not just meaningfully, but looking at meaningful things." Spiky-haired and fearless, O'Neil, who cannot resist cracking wise about any and all things, runs the Smart Chicago Collaborative. It's a civic organization founded jointly by the city of Chicago, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust and devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. Te collaborative's work revolves around three goals: increasing Internet access, improving technology skills and expanding the innovative use of data to improve lives. Smart Chicago works toward these goals through administering programs and funds sponsored by its public and philanthropic parent organizations. One standout initiative is Connect Chicago, a program that unifed and expanded a network of more than 250 places that ofer free computer use. Trough administering federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program funds, Smart Chicago upgraded computers and facilities and managed rollouts of computer training courses citywide. With more than 250 locations – 195 of which ofer training – the program has made progress in bridging the digital divide. Another program, #CivicSummer, teaches teens how to use digital tools and become profcient in technology, media and civic innovation. As executive director, O'Neil isn't shy about sharing Smart Chicago's mission and philosophy. "More than anything, we're about being open and inclusive to everyone in Chicago and beyond," he says. "While we support organizations that help people through technology, we're not primarily funders. We're workers. We're practitioners. We're conveners." Smart Chicago was the driving force behind one of Chicago's frst digital-organizing successes. With its partners – a community group, the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), and a new startup, LocalData – Smart Chicago devised a digital system that maps and reports dangerous conditions in buildings in Southwest Chicago in order to increase the city's attention to their need to be renovated. Tat creates new housing in the revitalizing neighborhood, replacing dilapidated buildings with homes suitable for families. SWOP had been doing something similar, the old- fashioned way, since it was started in 1996 to "enable families to exercise common values, determine their own future and connect with each other to improve life in their neighborhoods." SWOP members would walk around Southwest Chicago with pen and paper, making notes about vacant and abandoned buildings. Later, they would enter the data into an Excel spreadsheet, and then they'd use Microsoft Planner to put the information on maps to show it to other members. All in all, it was a pretty clunky system. What brought the project into the digital age was the work of LocalData, a civic startup supported by the Knight Foundation and Code for America. LocalData created a mobile app to allow community organizers to gather and organize neighborhood data and display them visually, using Chicago's already existing geodata. SWOP, O'Neil's team realized, could use this app to digitize its processes for tracking neglected properties. LocalData gave Smart Chicago a license to provide its software to SWOP – and made sure that SWOP would have technical support, unlimited hosted data and the ability to allow an unlimited number of app users. Gone was the era of paper notes and sitting later at a desk, navigating multiple pieces of software. Now, SWOP members simply use their phones to take pictures of problem buildings, automatically associate those pictures with their geocoded locations and export the data in a form that can be forwarded to Chicago's 311 system. When they see a dangerous building where dumping has occurred or windows have been broken, they can fag the place, answer all the questions that 311 needs to route the service request and know that this information is going in real time to the city. v Stephen Goldsmith is the Daniel Paul Professor of Government and director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Susan Crawford is the John A. Reilly Visiting Professor in Intellectual Property at the Harvard Law School and a co-director of the Berkman Center. Tis article is excerpted from their 2014 book, "Te Responsive City: Engaging Communities Trough Data-Smart Governance."

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