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Mayor Daley Announces the Smart Communities: Chicago Digital Excellence Initiative

Mayor Richard M. Daley announces the Smart Communities: Chicago Digital Excellence Initiative at the Churchview Senior Building.

Gordon Walek

Mayor Richard M. Daley accompanied with Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Julius Genachowski and host of other civic and community leaders unveiled the Smart Communities Digital Excellence Initiative aimed at reducing the digital divide in Chicago. This initiative is a collaboration of the City of Chicago, MacArthur Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC/Chicago) and 'Smart Communities' Chicago neighborhoods: Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Humboldt Park, and Pilsen.

Mayor Daley expressed in his comments that regardless of difficult economic times, the City of Chicago should be committed to address the challenges of the digital divide.

"Creating broadband infrastructure and access to technology in our neighborhoods is just as important to cities in the 21st century as paving streets and building water systems and utility systems that were in the 19th and 20th centuries," he said.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Julius Genachowski commends Mayor Daley and the City of Chicago regarding the Smart Communities Initiative.

Mary Monroy-Spampinato

The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation's (GADC) and New Communities Program manager, Ernest Sanders and Julie Welborn, co-owner of Perfect Peace Cafe & Bakery offered remarks regarding the importance of the Smart Communities Initiative in Auburn Gresham.

E. Sanders said, "The Auburn Gresham community is hindered from full participation in the global marketplace due to the existing impediments of accessing the Internet. The barriers are primarily related to cost, education, and a lack of hardware and software."

E. Sanders also spoke the this digital initiative being viewed from a social justice lens and echoed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Injustice anywhere is a theat to justice everywhere...If we don't avail this resource to our constituients, then they are hindered from participating in the digital age and lack the basic essentials as their peers across the world. This can weaken our the global market place as a whole," he said.

Welborn spoke of her customer-base and use of the Internet as a means to attract more consumers. She also expressed her concern that she needs more electrical outlets to fulfill the need of her customers who come into the Café and make use of the free WiFi service.

Ernest Sanders of GADC shares vital statistics regarding the Auburn Gresham community and NCP strategies.

Mary Monroy-Spampinato

“We are a small business with budget constraints. We only have two outlets and need more for our customers. We really can't afford to purchase more now. People are starting to come in and stay for a while. I don’t want to rush them out of the Café.” Welborn noted.

Given these barriers, The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC), along with the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, Southwest Organizing Project, and Teamwork Englewood decided to partner through a piloted effort to plan, test ideas and approaches, and programs to help our residents fully participate in these digital activities.

Combined they solicited input from nearly 100 residents and small business owners to flush out recommendations and potential projects that would digitally and socially link (DSL) the three communities.

Norma Sanders, the Southwest Smart Communities Initiative project manager worked this past summer to complete one recommended project to produce various forms of content. Under her leadership between the three communities, N. Sanders led and recruited 15 youth to participate in a 6 week academic print and digital media curriculum.

Julie Welborn, co-owner of Perfect Peace Cafe & Bakery highlights the importance and need of electrical outlets in her cafe.

Mary Monroy-Spampinato

As part of the curriculum, the youth interviewed small businesses, elected officials, civic and community leaders, healthcare and housing professionals, and partnering community development agencies.

N. Sanders also introduced Microsoft software grant recipients St. Sabina Employment Resource Center and A Knock at Midnight to Adam Hecktman, director of Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago and Mary Monroy-Spampinato, another Mircosoft team member, who was excited to hear that these local non-profit organizations were able to move their community's digital excellence agenda forward and benefit from Microsoft's investment in the Smart Communities Initiative.

Also during this press conference, Mayor Daley announced Microsoft's commitment of an additional $1.03 million in software grants to non-profit organizations in the Smart Communities. He too spoke of Hewlett-Packard's (HP) support and their investment of TouchSmart PC's at key locations in the Smart Communities.

HP TouchSmart at Chicago's O'hare International Airport.

HP Video - Corporate

Read more here of the Smart Communities Master Plan: A Platform for Participation and Innovation.

Click on the links below to see local print and digital media coverage of this historic unveiling.

City of Chicago Press Release

Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Tribune

NBC 5 News

ABC 7 News

WGN News

Federal Communications Commission: Broadband Field Hearing on Small Businesses

Click on image to see a brief demonstration of HP's TouchSmart technology.


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