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What’s New in Civic Tech: Two Illinois Broadband Efforts


Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced the launch of a pair of projects to improve connectivity across the state – the Connect Illinois Broadband Map and the Illinois Broadband Lab.

The Connect Illinois Broadband Map is in part exactly what it looks like – a map of broadband availability in the state. However, it also has different interactive components. For example, users can click on a connection speed, and the map will then display the areas in the state where connections at that speed are available. The map also shows other data layers, including the location of libraries and universities and the boundaries of economic development regions.

The card is actually hosted in the other half of this effort, accessible through the Illinois Broadband Lab website. As the verbiage on the site notes, the Illinois Broadband Lab is intended to “advance common interests in broadband data and research, explore various aspects of the digital divide, and provide thoughtful analysis of the Connect Illinois capital investment and related programming ”. There are also hundreds of PDF maps that cover different perspectives as well as additional datasets related to broadband access.

The speed map is part of that job, as are the other sections of the site, which include an affordability study and a central location to learn about the state’s other broadband efforts.

The overall goal of these two projects is to give residents and communities a clearer picture of the state of broadband in Illinois, allowing them to assess speeds and identify coverage gaps. In addition, the projects aim to provide decision makers with information that can be used to inform broadband investment, policy making and planning at the community level.

This type of work – particularly the cartographic component – has become increasingly common in state government, after years of expert criticism of federal broadband mapping. Essentially, state and local stakeholders have long viewed federal maps as insufficiently specific, also noting that they tend to rely on reports from telecom companies. Advocates of digital equity have often advocated giving the power to assess speeds directly to community decision-makers. This is exactly what this Illinois work is aimed at, combining data from local broadband providers with field tests.

Both of these efforts extend to the $ 420 million Connect Illinois broadband plan, which was a recent major Illinois investment in connectivity. These are collaborative projects in which the state partners with a number of partners, including the University of Illinois, the Illinois Innovation Network, and the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, based in the Illinois.

“Reliable high-speed internet access is not a luxury – it is a necessity for healthcare, academic success and competitiveness in a 21st century economy,” Pritzker said in a press release. “Keeping our communities connected has never been more important than it is today.” (Julia Edinger)


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a commitment of more than $ 1 billion to support broadband and connectivity work through libraries, schools and other groups.

The money goes to these places through the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program, the exact number being 2,471 schools, 205 libraries and 26 other groups, all of which have requested money. This is the second round of FCC funding from the FCC. The first round took place earlier this year.

The money will help cover the costs of broadband connectivity, as well as help organizations purchase laptops, tablets, modems, routers, and hotspots. An important goal of this funding is to help close what is called the homework gap, in reference to a disparity that some students have better Internet access at home outside of school hours.

ECF, authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, has total funding of $ 7.17 billion to distribute for this work. Another application window opened on September 28 and closed on October 13. More information about the fund is available on the FCC website. (Edinger)


Procurement, the process by which government purchases products and services, is indirectly related to civic tech work, as it is a wobbly and relatively invisible part of government tech and innovation work. It is also an area in need of improvement – an area that has often been addressed by civic technologists, both inside and outside of government.

Now California is working to do just that. This initiative is called the Technology, Digital and Data Consulting plan, and it is an evolution of the framework contract for IT consulting services. The name change reflects the nature of this job, which is to make sourcing more accessible and easier to understand. The name change is a small part of it.

As the State notes in its announcement: “To facilitate this change, we are asking vendor partners to submit their comments on the classifications and requirements of the consulting services offered through a request for information (RFI). The deadline for comments on the RFI is October 18. , 2021. “

The next step after the conclusion of the RFI will be for suppliers interested in this work to submit a proposal that includes the costs to compete for a contract with the state. (Zack Fifty)


Applications for the Westly Prize – from which civic technologists and other innovators can win $ 145,000 in cash prizes – are now open.

The goal of the Westly Prize is to recognize early stage social innovators in California for “new solutions to community challenges,” which is at the heart of civic technology. Three prizes of $ 40,000 will be awarded, and this money will have no restrictions on how it can be spent.

The deadline is the end of this week and those interested can apply on the Westly Prize website. (Awareness)


A notable civic technology project in Rhode Island uses census data to illustrate how the state’s population and other demographics have changed since 1708.

You can check out the project now through the state’s website. (Awareness)


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