The city of Chicago is consolidating its technology-related initiatives under one umbrella, hoping to bring greater focus and attention to ongoing efforts in areas such as digital literacy, broadband infrastructure and urban data analysis.
Chief Technology Officer John Tolva on Tuesday unveiled the Chicago Tech Plan, which consists of 28 initiatives organized into five broad strategies. Many of the initiatives reflect previously introduced plans — making low-cost broadband service more available to residents, for example, or promoting Chicago as an attractive place for technology startups to build their businesses.
In an interview, Tolva said unifying the various initiatives under the Chicago Tech Plan should help motivate other groups, from corporations to community-based organizations, to join the city's efforts or help them understand how their existing work fits into a broader context.
"It makes the case for why these things fit together, which does have implications for the private sector and the foundation world," Tolva said.
Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Chicago Broadband Challenge, which called for outfitting public parks, beaches and other spaces with free Wi-Fi. It also contemplated building out a super-high-speed "gigabit" network for business users in 15 commercial corridors, including the West Loop and the Illinois Medical District.
The tenets of the Chicago Broadband Challenge are included under the Chicago Tech Plan, and Tolva said officials have made some progress: About eight parks and beaches will have Wi-Fi by year-end, he said, and the city is "just about complete" with an inventory of unused municipal assets — such as sewer lines — that could be repurposed for the commercial gigabit networks. The next step is to issue a request for proposals for broadband providers that might be interested in building the networks.
The success of the Chicago Tech Plan will be measured by using a list of criteria, such as government cost savings and the number of Chicago Public Schools graduates pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering or math. The website for the plan will be updated at intervals, Tolva said.
"If you want a technology-driven business climate, you've got to start all the way at the beginning with our residents seeing technology being interwoven in all of our initiatives," Tolva said.
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