Connect Chicago is a loose network of more than 250 places in the city where internet and computer access, digital skills training, and online learning resources are available—for free.
The work of these people in libraries, colleges, community centers, workforce development centers, and public housing help create a vibrant culture of learning, making Chicago more globally competitive and an all-around better place to live and work.
Connect Chicago is here to help all Chicago residents get connected— no matter where you are in the city, on the skills continuum, or in this universe of access and training providers.
The origins of Connect Chicago
Nearly all of the locations in the Connect Chicago system have been serving the community for many, many years. Wi-fi and public computers have been available in the Chicago Public Library for more than a decade. Community technology centers— supported in part with programs like the State of Illinois’ Eliminate the Digital Divide Program (going back to 2001)— have been essential parts of neighborhoods for many years. Home-grown classes on social media and photo sharing have been taught in senior centers since the days of Friendster. This robust, caring, and rich environment is the basis for our work.
Connect Chicago is part of the City of Chicago’s federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Public Computer Center (PCC) grant received by the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation & Technology. Partnering organizations include City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Public Libraries, City of Chicago’s Department of Family Support Services, Smart Health Centers, and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.
The BTOP PCC grant is administered in part by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a joint project of the City of Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust.
According to a 2009 study commissioned by the City of Chicago, as many as 40 percent of city residents lack home broadband access, making libraries and other public computer centers essential resources for employment, training and educational opportunities. We are helping close this gap.
The BTOP PCC grant has paid for more than 1,400 new or upgraded computers throughout the city and directly led to more than 33,000 hours of computer training for residents. We’ve helped build four new public computer centers at Chicago Housing Authority locations and more at City Colleges of Chicago. These federal funds have helped amplify the great work that has already been done in this city.
Connect Chicago has something for everyone — from youth and seniors, to people with disabilities and to job seekers. The program provides hundreds of thousands of hours of free training, including digital literacy instruction, personal financial management, resume creation, social media use and online job searching.
Built using open source and with open data
This website is entirely open source and the code is free for anyone to view or reuse. You can download the following code on the Smart Chicago Collaborative Github page:
- Connect Chicago WordPress Theme
- Connect Chicago Locator (built with Ruby on Rails and Google Fusion Tables)
The Connect Chicago locations all originated from the Public Technology Resources list from the City of Chicago open data portal, and we’re keeping it open. You can download all of the location data here. We started off creating the list of locations here with the and enhanced it by the work we’ve done in the BTOP PCC program.
Contact Daniel X. O’Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org / (773) 960-6045 with any questions. If your location is not listed here, and you want it to be, please contact us. The criteria are the same used for the State’s Eliminate the Digital Divide program— each location must provide at least twelve (12) hours of general computer access and basic computer literacy training services to the public each week. We’re wide open to hearing from you!