Connect Chicago is a donor advised fund managed by the City Tech Collaborative that seeks to make Chicago the most digitally skilled, connected, and dynamic city in America. Connect Chicago is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft, Comcast, Sprint, the Lenovo Foundation, Clarity Partners, and Gogo.

There are already more than 250 public locations across the city that train residents to use a computer, provide free Internet access, and empower residents to improve their health, education, and economic potential through technology. Still, big gaps remain. Chicago’s full civic and economic potential cannot be unleashed until every resident in every neighborhood has access to the Internet and has the skills to use it.

More about Connect Chicago 

  1. (1) Increase access to the Internet & digital learning opportunities
  2. (2) Increase digital skills of Chicagoans
  3. (3) Increase economic and civic engagement through technology
  1. (1) Leadership & Coordination. Connect Chicago will provide coordination, community-building, and impact measurement across these programs citywide.
  2. (2) Scaling Evidence-Based Programs. Connect Chicago will invest in the evidence-based, digital training programs at trusted institutions to ensure that every resident in Chicago has access to these learning opportunities.
  3. (3) Innovation. Connect Chicago will build an Innovation Program to continually and sustainably support new, promising approaches to digital training and connectivity.

“In Chicago, we believe that the power of technology is driven by the people who use and benefit from it.” The City of Chicago Tech Plan

Chicago has a long history of leadership and innovation in digital skills and connectivity.Connect Chicago was inspired in part by “The City that Networks” — a 2007 report from the Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide. The Report recommended the formation of a partnership and campaign for digital excellence. From 2010–2012, Chicago made made major strides in expanding and evaluating digital access & skills programing with support from the National Telecommunications & Information Association’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). The Smart Communities Demonstration revealed that targeted neighborhoods with digital trainings and programing interventions saw higher rates of growth in Internet use and broadband adoption from 2008 – 2013. BTOP, along with Illinois’ former Eliminate the Digital Divide Grant program, supported the creation of the loose network of 250+ public computing centers and neighborhood training sites that became the core of today’s Connect Chicago network. The CyberNavigator Program has been praised as an important component of a library in the digital age. Also, according to LISC Chicago 2011-2012 data, job seekers at their Financial Opportunity Centers who received digital skill training were 50% more likely to get a job.

Connect Chicago is the next chapter in Chicago’s commitment to digital access & skills. It is rooted in two recent citywide plans created under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership: the City of Chicago Tech Plan as well as the World Business Chicago Plan for Economic Growth & Jobs. Through investments in coordination, evidence-building, and innovation, we believe Connect Chicago will expand and sustain a thriving digital ecosystem that unleashes Chicago’s economic potential and improves the lives of its residents.

Connect Chicago is managed by the City Tech Collaborative at UI Labs and advised by a dynamic leadership group of Chicago’s key public partners and private institutions.

Connect Chicago thanks its community of investors that have already pledged their support to connectivity & digital skills. As of April 2018, members of our supporters include:

The Connect Chicago Innovation Program is steered by a Pilot Selection Committee comprised of Connect Chicago funders, local philanthropists, public leaders, program experts, and subject matter experts:

  • Eric Sears, MacArthur Foundation
  • Danielle DuMerer, City of Chicago
  • Shelley Stern Grach, Microsoft
  • Adam Hecktman, Microsoft
  • Jim Mills, Sprint
  • Yui Namiki, Sprint
  • Matt Summy, Comcast
  • Joe Higgins, Comcast
  • David Namkung, Clarity Partners
  • Monica Hauser, Lenovo Foundation
  • Eric Freedman, Columbia College
  • Sheena Erete, DePaul University
  • David Leopold, City Tech
  • Leon Wilson, Cleveland Foundation
  • Neeta Boddapati, Grand Victoria Foundation