Digital Excellence 2018

Someone reminded me that we needed to update our website to reflect what is happening now within the digital excellence community and within our organization.
Well, we’ve had Digital Excellence Conferences in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
We skipped 2011, 2015-2017 because of funding issues with the Chicago Digital Access Alliance, Inc. and the elimination of funding for many digital access programs in Illinois and around the country.
So what is happening in 2018?
Well, in the years 2014-2017, we did a lot of stuff that is not recorded on this website.

For one thing, we spent the years 2011-2017 spearheading a move to broadband technologies and the creation of a wifi broadband network in the Chiccago neighborhood of Woodlawn. (See map above).

In 2012, our work resulted in the first Gigabit Illinois Opportunities Grant being awarded not to us, but to a company called Gigabit Squared. Gigabit Squared received a $2 million grant from the State of Illinois administration of Governor Pat Quinn, based largely on work we did as the Chicago Digital Access Alliance and the Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership L3C.

Unfortunately, Gigabit Squared never built the network, never even produced a network map. They spent 3/4 of the $2 million dollars without producing anything, then the company was dissolved, and as far as we know the organizers were never made to account for the money they received or spent.

So in January, 2014, a coalition of community organizations led by the Chicago Digital Access Alliance and the Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership L3C along with Neighborhood Development Services NFP headed by Norman Montgomery took over the development and deployment of a wifi network in Chicago Woodlawn.

We created a partnership with Cisco/Meraki, the New America Foundation, Globetrotter Engineering Inc. and the Illinois Century Network. We also created a new organization, Connect Woodlawn Inc. and worked with the University of Chicago Community Accelerator Program to create a business plan and map of a network for Woodlawn. We later enlisted assistance from Michael Sisto of Lemko Inc. and developed a relationship with wireless access provider Siklu to assist in the network map engineering.

So, seven (7) years after we first began this journey, the wifi broadband network – now under the ownership and development of Connected Neighborhoods LLC, which includes  the above-listed organizations and is also working on networks in Rockford Illinois and Decatur, Illinois. That network deployment will come to fruition in 2018, thanks to our dogged determination and a partnership with Cisco/Meraki, Siklu and the State of Illinois.

In 2012, we launched the Southside Broadband Expansion Collaborative NFP  to cover nine (9) South Side communities targeted to be impacted by a wifi network. Six (6) years later, in 2018, the Southside Broadband Expansion Collaborative NFP and its Broadband Strategies Institute are back under the management of  Opportunity Communities NFP, a new national non-profit focused on supporting resident-driven economic development activities in underserved communities.

In the wake of the elimination in Illinois of the Eliminate The Digital Divide Grant program which funded hundreds of non-profit community technology centers in Illinois in the period from 1999-2016 until it was eliminated by Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget cuts, we are reimagining the Chicago Digital Access Alliance Inc. as a digital resources development organization supporting Community Technology Centers, wifi broadband deployment and STEM/digital resources training with its affilate enterprise, CDAA Tech Ventures LLC and our new social enterprise group, Digital Excellence L3C.

There’s much more to come. And if you read today’s headlines in the era of Trump and cutbacks in social services, housing and the so-called safety net, the access gap is widening and there is a greater need than ever for advocacy and intervention by residents most affected by the digital divide gap. And that intervention has always been our mission and our strength.

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