The Digital Divide

Chicago is a city divided.  We at CrossRealms want to bridge the gap between the affluent, digitally-rich parts of the city and the vast swaths in which wireless internet is hard to come by.  Fundamental training in information technology (or lack thereof) has socio-economic implications that can resonate for generations– those who interact with technology from a young age are primed for success in an increasingly technological world; those who don’t face an uphill battle.

The issue of connectivity is complex and will require the implementation of comprehensive and easy-to-use infrastructure.  In a past blog post, I talked about our plan to build a green data center and urban farm in order to couple our expertise in data center design with a project to bring fresh food to an underserved community.  As we move forward with this plan, we are adding more elements to provide better access to fill the technological gaps.

Two new components of our plan involve delivering wireless internet service to the community in which we will build the data center and providing computers to community members.  Many cities have undertaken projects to provide citywide access, but Chicago’s initiatives have failed to bring the internet to few places other than public libraries.  We hope that city will soon allocate more funds to connecting its citizens.

For our part, we are working to incorporate an electronic recycling center into our green data center.  Computers and other electronics are regularly discarded before the end of their useful lifetimes to make room for new, rapidly evolving technologies.  But recycling electronics is not as simple as taking out the trash.  Currently, there is little e-recycling infrastructure in the City of Chicago.  Drop-off points exist, but are inconveniently located and open infrequently.  Our center will serve as a drop-off, processing, and distribution site.  Each computer will be refurbished to ensure that it is internet-capable and distributed for free to members of the community.

Through our work, CrossRealms hopes to provide more equitable internet access to people in all parts of the city.  Our first e-recycling center/green data center/urban farm will be a prototype for socially and environmentally responsible technological developments to come.  This past week, we narrowed the search for potential sites and are getting really excited to leave the realm of the theoretical and start getting our hands dirty with construction and implementation.  Stay tuned for more updates!