Digital Access Alliance, Chicago: Principles for Digital Inclusion

Through the hard work of folks like Michael Maranda and many others, the Chicago Digital Access Alliance has formulated an extraordinarily useful 10-point statement of principles applicable to every city engaged in expanding digital inclusion. Through the hard work of folks like Michael Maranda and many others, the Chicago Digital Access Alliance has formulated an extraordinarily useful 10-point statement of principles applicable to every city engaged in expanding digital inclusion. Tackling the multi-faceted nature of the digital divide, the CDAA has drafted a document that should be brought before all decision-makers before they sign off on plans to wire(less) their communities. Congrats to the CDAA!


The following principles have been adopted under the Campaign for a Community Benefits Agreement. We believe these principles should guide the development of the wireless network and the opportunities that emerge from its formation.

1. Digital excellence is an institutionally funded priority for Chicago.

Activities promoting Digital Excellence are best shaped and supported through a sustained funding mechanism. A Digital Excellence Trust, guided by local constituents and practitioners in the field of Digital Literacy should advocate on behalf of the digitally under-served, offer programmatic support to establish local capacity and promote the vision of digital excellence.

2. Sound planning, evaluation and policy measures are critical to digital divide evaluation and digital excellence impact.

Qualitative and quantitative processes must be established to gather baseline and ongoing data on Chicago’s digital divide, and guide the creation of new policies and practices to strengthen digital opportunities, thereby promoting digital excellence.

3. Universal access to high-speed connectivity is a public right and necessity.

Universal broadband access for all citizens is a public right, not a privilege. Internet access must be available to ALL Chicago residents regardless of where they live, work or learn, furthermore, provision must be made for special access needs. Service upgrades and enhancements must be made available to all communities in an equitable manner.

4. Digital literacy and fluency are forms of human capital and require public investment.

Comprehensive training for digital literacy must be available in multilingual and varied learning formats. Digital proficiency must be promoted at neighborhood based locations, especially community technology centers, community based organizations and libraries, to strengthen resident understanding of new technologies. Training must be available in multiple formats to promote the inclusion of citizens who are fluent in other languages or disabled.

5. Local infrastructure is necessary for community-driven content development.

Content must reflect the ideas, identities and innovation of community residents and their respective neighborhoods. Local infrastructure must be established to allow for community control over content. Civic, educational and government web sites must be available for free to residents at ALL times through a Civic Garden accessible on the wireless splash page.

6. Hardware tools must be available to all.

Computer hardware, whether new or refurbished, must be available to ALL Chicago residents free or at affordable cost, and non-predatory mechanisms must be put in place for the acquisition of this hardware for all consumers. Community based organizations, libraries and parks must be equipped and supported to provide free public use access.

7. Environmentally sustainable best practices and innovations improve the health and well-being of all neighborhoods.

The tools of the information age must adhere to and support the highest levels of environmental and economic sustainability. The city should use the new network as a means to disseminate and capture information vital to improving the sustainability of our city, such as gathering air and water quality data and improving transportation choice. Economically and environmentally sustainable processes for disposal and recycling of outdated electronic materials should be supported by the City and technology vendors in all communities, particularly those low-income areas traditionally targeted for the potentially harmful disposal of used and toxic computer hardware. The City and technology vendors should support the creation of neighborhood-based recycling and refurbishing initiatives for environmental remediation and job creation.

8. Our freedom to connect demands network neutrality and active monitoring for equitable service.

Network Neutrality is grounded in Freedom of Speech. For all networks offering service in Chicago the precept of network neutrality must be honored and all features of the network (bandwidth, services and enhancements) must be deployed so as to achieve universal and equitable coverage. The community must have the ability to monitor and verify data on coverage and quality of service, there must be mechanisms for remediation, and the city must take an active role to ensure compliance by vendor and subsidiaries.

9. The global economy works for everyone: assure workforce development and first source hiring.

Workforce development opportunities that emerge from the wireless network should be made available to neighborhood residents (including the hard-to-employ, youth, and physically challenged) that are identified, trained and employed through first source hiring opportunities and subcontracting opportunities for neighborhood-based businesses.

10. In strong neighborhood economies, entrepreneurs and small businesses thrive.

The network must provide mechanisms to expand existing small businesses and cultivate new opportunities in Chicago’s under-served communities. Small businesses and residents must have the resources, training and support to use the access afforded by the network to grow revenue and potential, including training in business development and eCommerce.

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Posted By Sascha Meinrath