You've probably read the news - Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has announced the Chicago Broadband Challenge, encouraging citizens to get involved in helping establish city-wide online access, and you probably have one question on your minds....
Why should I bother - or care?
Here's the reason why - the Chicago Broadband Challenge is a really great opportunity for people in the community to have an impact on how the city moves forward in terms of tech.
Slowly, but surely, Chicago is hiding in plain sight as a center of connectivity. It's gaining a reputation as a tech/startup center, and this collaboration between city government and private business is heartening, but there is another question you should be asking....
Where's the community, and why isn't this just another example of typical Chicago politics at work?
The answer is that, if we're looking at helping serve communities which lack resources, having access online means that more people can seek out employment opportunities. It means more kids can complete homework assignments because they're not waiting at a library for a terminal. It means that people who are seeking jobs can network and seek employment opportunities. It means that small businesses and non-profits can thrive because online access is a resource that they don't have to worry about....
....and as a result, communities across the city begin to move forward. This isn't a government handout - it's a way of building intellectual/vocational/informational infrastrucutre, of building both online and offline networks, and helping all Chicago residents become more digitally literate.
In short, this is an opportunity not just for residents to have an impact, but for neighborhoods and communities to really impact the overall social good. It's more than just assembling apps which have a side benefit, or putting on conferences which educate about online/web-based tools - this is an opportunity to engage in democracy in its purest form.
So please, consider being part of the Chicago Broadband Challenge - the only reward I will receive is knowing that not only will I be participating, but also helping bringing this opportunity forward to people who are interested.
If you have comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below. If you want to contact me privately, just send me a note via Linked In (citing Chicago Now in your request) or via my web site. Also, don't forget that the next Chicago Net Tuesday meeting is October 9th - please RSVP here.
Thanks again for reading, and have a great weekend!