Smart Communities and Broadband Evaluation

These Smart Communities and Broadband Evaluation reports provide  a unique view of neighborhood-level change surrounding a digital inclusion initiative in Chicago. No other city has neighborhood-level data on Internet use and activities online, which allowed for comparison of target communities with other Chicago neighborhoods over a 5 year-period.

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Here is the baseline study with the 2008 citywide survey.

Digital excellence in chicago 2009


With data drawn from citywide surveys in 2008, 2011 and 2013 (and estimates based on multilevel models) the study compared the 9 Smart Communities to other Chicago neighborhoods over this period, controlling for other factors that might affect Internet use, such as demographic change in the neighborhoods. The analysis shows the Smart Communities neighborhoods experienced during the five-year period a greater rate of growth in several areas: Internet use (in any location); home broadband adoption; use of the Internet for job search, mass transit and health information The Smart Communities program aims to increase Internet use and to establish a “culture of digital excellence” in nine low and moderate-income community areas of the city of Chicago. The vision of the Smart Communities is to harness the Internet to improve the opportunities of residents and the quality of life in the target communities (Smart Communities Master Plan, 2010). The program was funded by a $7 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant to the City of Chicago from 2010-2012, and was implemented by a partnership of the Chicago Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and community organizations. Evaluation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Partnership for a Connected Illinois.

Summary of findings on neighborhood-level change and outcomes for Civic 2.0 and FamilyNet programs.

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Chicago neighborhood-level change in internet use comparison of Smart Communities to other neighborhoods, 2008-13.

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Results of participant surveys and interviews for training in online government and policy resources.

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Results of participant surveys for community-based Internet training programs in 9 Chicago Community areas.

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Study of early program implementation and recommendations.

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Policy brief describing why evaluation of broadband programs is needed and recommendations for effective policy. This policy brief resulted from a national roundtable on broadband evaluation held at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in October 2012, and was signed by a coalition of researchers and distributed at a broadband summit of the Federal Communications Commission in 2013.

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