Our Town Grows: Web Tools Sustain Life, Learning and Local Commerce Everywhere

People now meet on the street, and in local web places

How is this done?  How do Internet tools help the local economy?

A. Local neighborhoods: the clicks are coming!

As growing numbers of youth, adults, seniors, businesses, public agencies and institutions expand “online,” there is growing knowledge of how to help build access, skills and consumer comforts with regular Internet use.  See Web Use Project of researchers at Northwestern University and elsewhere.  

1. Neighborhood business social media grows

Neighborhood stores regularly put “sales and coupons” on the Internet.  Residents make payments and gain “rewards” for patronage of local stores, restaurants and entertainment.  The clicks and smart cards are coming to local schools, libraries, post offices, transit lines, community centers and public agencies as outreach and applications explode on line, including by mobile “app” software.  See Small Business' Big Use of Social Media - Sponsored - The Atlantic

New tools are available to corner stores.  Many companies now help local businesses with low cost and effective tools to control inventory and  to reach customers.  See Brick Meets Click example.

2. Dashboards show assets and trends

Local chambers of commerce partner with community institutions and public officials to combine local GIS mapping, GPS data and Facebook-like social media data to create local Community Dashboards.  Dashboards display “overnight data” in user friendly forms for daily duties in neighborhoods.  These are similar to Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards for business chains small and large. send “overnight data” on dollars and people in the store, and what inventory they are buying.  Community Dashboards include 311, 911 and other digital government data, along with and private sector data.  See GIS tools which help communities “paint” scenarios for local blocks and neighborhoods. Tools can update changes to real estate parcels by mobile devices. See Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

For businesses looking for sites in hyperlocal areas, the State of Illinois has electronic “site searches” for buildings and sites, including details on communication and utility connections. See the Communication and Utility data on Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Location One Resources on Sites and Buildings.

Recently, Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology convened leaders to explore ways that “web places” link people with “local places” for commerce and community networks.  See tools developed for local needs in Urban Sustainability Hackathon

B.  Hurricane Sandy reminds us of web uses in times of emergency

Even during the power outages of Hurricane Sandy, 90% of persons were able to maintain Internet contact with friends and public safety responders, and including very local media.  See Hurricane Sandy Broke Only 10 Percent of New York Area's Internet | Benton Foundation.

Planning for communication in times of family emergencies or community wide emergencies means linking many very local networks in blocks, local congregations, service clubs, and  public safety places, and in wider Red Cross and Emergency Response networks.  See article on public-private Community Response networks by Illinois Department of Human Service staff who work in FEMA-supported local and interstate networks.  Collaborative Relationships are key to community resiliance and emergency preparedness - May 2011

C.  Local Access Programs –  Economic Engines in 48 community college districts and overlapping hospital service areas

Residents know where their local places are for local shopping, schools, community centers and congregations activities.  Families and businesses have familiar paths to libraries and post offices, police and fire stations, and gain access to needed services and goods at  wider local area places like colleges, community colleges, hospitals, malls, museums and cultural arts venues.

1. As building block local areas, Illinois has 48 community college areas.  See District Map.

For the public Digital Age, community colleges provide regular Digital Literacy classes and provide public access computer labs.  See locations of City Colleges of Chicago Computer Center Expansion developed through support of Smart Chicago Collaborative.

Community colleges also host most SBA-backed Small Business Development Centers, administered through Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. DCEO - Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Technology.

2. As building block areas, community college districts overlap with rural and urban hospital and health clinic areas.  See areas on map of areas served by statewide Illinois Rural HealthNet.

In Metropolitan Chicago, more than 150 hospitals and health clinics serve local areas, and link with statewide telehealth networks.

See local place “finding” health care tools: City of Chicago Adopts Flu Shot App Built by Civic Hackers | Code for America.

3. See generic local area community-strengthening initiatives anchored in Local Access Places: where solutions are “in one’s lap” using community people and resources.

D. Meet me @ the Tech Fair or Community Assembly

Tech Fairs showcase “what works” for the future, and Community Assemblies gather cross-sections of communities to “visualize and make” no-small plans, to tap local networks for outreach, and evaluate results

In rural, suburban and urban regions, neighborhood tech expos, community and county fairs allow citizens to “kick the tires” of Internet Age tools for all ages.  See County Fair Schedule - Illinois Dept. of Agriculture – 2012

Illinois multi-county regional planning agencies work with DCEO and Partnership for a Connected Illinois on Digital Age plans for competitiveness.  See Illinois Association of Regional Councils, our state’s network of regional public-private planners, supported by local, state, Federal funding.

Regional planning bodies have pioneered the use of consumer-friendly “keypad polling” to get accurate data from cross-sections of populations, businesses and public officials.  These archivable tools record visions and plans, as well as evaluate the results of plans and services.  See models for “community assemblies” using such techniques by groups such as America Speaks, which hosted a community vision assembly at Navy Pier, Chicago.

E.  Cross-border regions are Illinois neighbors

Cross-border cooperation in Illinois often means “along the lake,” “over the river” or “along a long rural –suburban-exurban border” 

For effective cross-border networks, see recent formalization of planning and economic development cooperation in the Southern Lake Michigan area of SE Wisconsin, NE Illinois and NW Indiana.  This area has formal 3 state “community response” public-communication agreements, based on public-private FEMA homeland security networks. Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce | Tri-State Alliance for Regional Development.  

Similarly, Mississippi River Delta planning includes southern Illinois, Missouri and western Kentucky

F.  Finally: Invitations to cross paths in 2014 and times in between

All Illinois regions are invited to work together in the next two years on Life and Learning opportunities, for:

  1. Strengthening our local life and healthy lifestyle networks, including as health services go on line.   In 2009 Congress set the goal that “in 5 years all citizens and health providers will have electronic health records.”  This means by 2014.  We need to be ready for all in Illinois to obtain and use the Smart Health Cards and Health Apps from our local health networks that enable us to access them.  See article from June 2011 on Healthcare and a Digital Card in Every Pocket — Broadband Illinois
  2. Meeting Up in September 2014 at McCormick Place, Chicago by All Illinois-Regions, as tech career exploring students and educators in high school, community college and community workforce training are invited to attend the 9000 participant Student Summit of the International Manufacturing Technology Show.  This is Chicago’s largest trade show for over 100,000 attendees from Midwest and around the world, held every 2 years. See IMTS TV program shows beginning with retrospective on September 2012 IMTS, the building of high performance car in a week at the show, and nine technology career areas).
  3. Keep up with Events on Broadband Illinois website, and share your local events with community-business-education-healthcare-public networks. 

We all increase our liberties when we sustain creation, learning and business activities in Illinois, and in watershed around the world!

Tags: Benton Foundation, Broadband Illinois, Chamber of Commerce, City of Chicago, Code for America, Community, Computer centers, DCEO, Emergency Preparedness, MCHC, Tr-State Alliance for Regional Development

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