Antenna to boost low-income Net access
July 26, 2004
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Sears Tower has a new
antenna. Not the Sears Tower downtown, the original 100-year-old
Sears Tower in North Lawndale. The antenna is part of a program
to create Wireless Community Networks (WCN's) offering wireless
high-speed Internet access to four underserved, low-income communities
the brain-child of Chicago technology activist Robert Lieberman,
CEO of the Center for Neighborhood Technology and Lt. Gov. Pat
Quinn and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director
Jack Lavin, the state is providing $200,000 in grant money to
fund WCN's in North Lawndale, Pilsen and suburban Elgin, and Downstate
in West Frankfort.
idea of Wireless Community Networks is something we want to explore,"
Quinn says. "This technology is the face of the future. We
have to make it affordable and accessible."
four of these areas are underserved," Lieberman says, based
on feedback from focus groups with local residents. The research
demonstrates residents see a need for access to technology and
would pay for the service if they could get an affordable price.
Lieberman hopes to serve a minimum of 1,000 households per community
at a monthly cost of $20.
program brings together low-cost, recycled technology and local
community organizations to provide training and support.
with the Homan Square Community Center Foundation and Neighborhood
Technology Resource Center in North Lawndale and the Gads Hill
Center in Pilsen.
is one of the most innovative projects we've seen," says
Deborah Strauss, executive director of the IT Resource Center,
which provides technology guidance to more than 300 not-for-profit
organizations. "To not put this technology into poor communities
exacerbates the digital divide."
believes the commercial sector is just beginning to rediscover
the purchasing power of low- and moderate-income communities.
He hopes his initiative will demonstrate there is money to be
made in underserved communities.
Ebert, iMovie, 'I, Robot'
It was SRO for SunTimes
film critic Roger Ebert at the Apple Theater at Apple's flagship
Michigan Avenue store recently.
wanted digital photos with Ebert before his talk about the way
Mac's and Apple's iMovie software brings film-making to the masses.
movies, Will Smith's thriller "I, Robot," is a must-see
for its futuristic vision of Chicago. There's lots of symbolism
reminiscent of U.S. Robotics, the data-communications equipment
company founded here by Casey Cowell and sold to 3Com in 1997
for $8.5 billion.
former president of U.S. Robotics, still thinks Chicago is a terrific
place for tech companies. "It's just tough convincing the
rest of the world."
Michigan tops Illinois
Robot," Illinois fell out of the top 10 list of the most
digitally advanced states in the 2004 Digital States Survey prepared
by the Center for Digital Government in Folsom, Calif.
It's bad news
for Illinois, and signals a need for the Blagojevich administration
to better articulate and promote its tech direction. Michigan
is ranked No. 1.
Word is the
Illinois Opportunity Fund, a venture fund for start-ups, fell
victim to political infighting between Gov. Blagojevich and House
Speaker Mike Madigan.
was proposed following a pro-bono study by A.T. Kearney in 2002
citing the need for more early stage investment capital. That
followed a pro-bono McKinsey & Co. study in 2000 citing a
similar need. McKinsey sees new emerging enterprises as the source
of economic growth in Illinois.
President, John Maxson and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) invited
local tech leaders to hear President Bush speak in Glenview last
week. Bush said Chicago will be part of the initial rollout of
RapidCom, a new program to assure first responders can communicate
in an emergency ... IIT's Tom Jacobius will organize the second
annual Invention to Venture workshop here in October. The program
targets engineering and science students aiming to transform inventions
into business ventures. DePaul, Loyola, UIC, Northwestern, the
University of Chicago and the Kauffman Foundation will sponsor.
Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.