Leveraging Technology in Chicago’s Modern Economy

| Anna Draft, Microsoft Chicago Civic Tech Fellow

The 2017 Civic Technology Forum Explores How Technology Can Move Chicago ForwardLocal government, community and industry stakeholders gathered at Studio Xfinity for the 2017 Civic Technology Forum in Chicago. Hosted by Comcast, the forum featured Danielle DuMerer, Acting Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology, Joe Moreno, Alderman of Chicago’s 1st Ward and John Fritchey, District Commissioner of Cook County’s 12th District. Forum panelists also included Elliot Fabian of Black Tech Mecca, Alya Woods of ChicagoNext and David Namkung of CLARITY Partners.

“Five years ago, tech in Chicago was hardly a conversation,” Woods said. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of tech jobs in Chicago increased by more than 25 percent, and Chicago has been one of the fastest growing cities for tech jobs. Today, public access to technology is a key driver in helping residents and businesses succeed in Chicago’s modern economy. The challenge is to make sure that the education individuals receive trains them with the right skills for success in Chicago’s job market, in which technology is at the forefront. Additionally, access to technology and the internet is crucial in priming Chicagoans, and all people, for success.

“A forum like this one that brings together local government, community and industry stakeholders is key to ensuring that the public has access to technologies that let both residents and businesses get their bite (or “byte”) of the pie,” Fritchey said. Fritchey further commented that tech access in Chicago neighborhoods and investment in innovation are keys to success in today’s economy.

“Events like the forum give Black Tech Mecca an opportunity to reshape perspectives and remove obstacles and [to] ultimately make technology more readily available to black people in the city,” Fabian commented.  Black Tech Mecca’s vision is to make the power and potential of technology accessible to every black child, entrepreneur and professional. It was great to hear from organizations like Black Tech Mecca on how democratizing technology can create efficiencies in Chicago’s growing economy.

Panelists discuss how Chicagoans can leverage technology toward economic success

DuMerer closed the forum emphasizing that “we can’t just create tech tools and not care about access and usability.” The conversation about access and accessibility must be part of the development process, not just an afterthought in today’s modern economy.

Microsoft and its fellows were thrilled to be part of this audience and conversation. Many thanks to Comcast for hosting the “2017 Civic Technology Forum” and to all the impressive panelists and audience participants for also being part of the conversation.

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