Title: Digital Equity
Policy Area: Community Development, Education/Workforce, Housing, Technology, City Services
Team Members: Office of Equity and Racial Justice (OERJ), Chief Financial Officer Team (CFO), Mayor’s Office Policy Team, Digital Equity Council, Philanthropic partners, Kids First Chicago, federal government
“The digital divide is the gap between those who have affordable access, skills, and support to effectively engage online and those who do not” (NTIA). Lack of these digital resources creates further inequities in accessing health, education, jobs, and participation in civic life (such as registering to vote and engaging with essential city services). In the ten least connected neighborhoods in Chicago, 72% of community members are Black and 25% are Hispanic.
- How can we work together to achieve digital equity?
- How do we break down barriers for those most impacted by low-quality internet, lack of devices, and lack of tech skills?
- How can we coordinate departments to work together effectively?
- How do we center residents most impacted the problem?
Reflect on our Past
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, digital equity was not a top policy issue. When the pandemic hit and all public school kids had to learn remotely, the City and its partners created Chicago Connected, a free internet program for 100,000 Chicago Public School students and their families. As key Chicago Connected partner Kids First Chicago noted in their March 2020 report, “The COVID-19 pandemic has not made the internet indispensable – it has revealed that it always was.”
Reclaim our Present
OERJ has a vision of a democratic and reparative economy that gives everyone the ability to thrive without extracting from people or the environment in the process. The team narrowed their focus from inequitable economic development to “community wealth building,” a term first coined by The Democracy Collaborative. With guidance from local community leaders, the City of Chicago articulated a new definition: “an approach to economic development that promotes the local, democratic, and shared ownership and control of community assets.”
Reimagine our Future
In November 2021, Mayor Lightfoot announced a historic $15 million investment in a CWB pilot project as part of the Chicago Recovery Plan funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.