Why a Dedicated High Speed Broadband Network to Connect the Unconnected is a Game Changer

Why a Dedicated High Speed Broadband Network to Connect the Unconnected is a Game Changer

Recently, DigitalC launched the Connect the Unconnected program. It has received strong media coverage in the Cleveland PlainDealer, WCPN (NPR)'s Sound of Ideas and in blog postings around the world. In this blog posting, I offer details on the technical design, the solution architecture, and our hopes for America's first, dedicated gigabit network designed specifically to support the unserved and underserved members of our community.

Digital Inclusion Week in Cleveland

During the week of May 8th, Cleveland participated in Digital Inclusion Week (DIW), a national initiative that seeks to promote online access and technology skill-building in efforts to reduce digital disparities in communities.

The week included roundtable discussions, city council meetings and talks surrounding the problems of digital inclusion in the city Cleveland. Among topics covered were AT&T's redlining of neighborhoods, DigitalC's Connect the Unconnected Program and statistical and analytical work regarding the issues of connection, employment, and education. 

National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) initiated Digital Inclusion Week across the country to pinpoint and bring about alliances among communities in order to address issues of connectivity equality for everyone. NDIA advocates an inclusive digital entry point if we are to give everyone a chance to enter into the digital economy. 

DigitalC hosted a ribbon cutting for its Connect The Unconnected Program at CMHA's Cedar High Rise to launch America's first high-speed broadband (as defined by the FCC) Internet access in public housing. The internet access serves as a backbone to our Restart Program, a digital skills training program for qualified Cleveland populations. 

These two programs are supported in partnership with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) as well as our many partners teaching the courses for digital literacy and skills training.

Giving Non-Techies A Chance

In Cleveland, bridging the digital divide and workforce training gets a boost

I don’t consider myself a techie. I don’t know how to code, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how my iPhone works and although I grasp the idea of data science, I’m by no means a practitioner. Despite this and the fact that my educational background is in business and public administration, I work for a technology organization, and technology and the internet are integral to both my personal and professional life. Increasingly, stories like mine are becoming the narrative of the 21 st century. Technology is permeating nearly every facet of our lives and technology know-how and skills are becoming prerequisites, not just for tech jobs but for employment across all sectors.

Meanwhile, the city of Cleveland retains its ranking as the third least connected city in the nation, behind only Detroit, Michigan and Brownsville, Texas. Approximately 50% of Cleveland residents don’t have broadband internet connectivity at home.

The Digital Divide Slows Workforce Development
That’s an astounding figure! Think of the variety of ways you use the internet every day. From your morning news, to social media, to staying connected at work, to paying your bills, taking a class online, checking in with your child’s teacher, reviewing your test results from your doctor; the list goes on and on. Meanwhile, half of Cleveland’s residents lack the access to do any of these things.

Concurrently, Cleveland employers are struggling to fill jobs locally due to a growing technology skills gap in the region. Today, many job vacancies are only posted online, where approximately half of Clevelanders don’t have ready access to view them. It’s clear a vicious cycle is occurring, one that I believe will be insurmountable if we, as a region, fail to make inclusive, equitable access to technology a priority.

A Solution: Internet Connection and Workforce Training Programs
At DigitalC, we are committed to addressing the issues of access and digital skills building for the most vulnerable members of our population. Through two pilot programs, we will begin proving the impact of home broadband access and digital literacy training for improving social and economic outcomes for Cleveland residents. Our first program, Connect the Unconnected, will bring broadband connections to approximately 800 residents of CMHA high rise communities, as well as residents of the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries Men’s Shelter and students at Stepstone Academy. Recipients of the connectivity will also be provided with the opportunity to complete a basic digital literacy training course, teaching the fundamentals of computer and internet use, after which they will receive a refurbished computer to utilize at home.

Growing out of this effort at connectivity and basic training, DigitalC is also piloting ReStart, a technology skills building program aimed at creating on-ramps to the digital economy for under-employed and unemployed Clevelanders. Utilizing local assets and resources, DigitalC is collaborating with community workforce and training partners to embed digital skills training curriculum into existing workforce development programming, providing opportunities for marginalized populations to access everything from basic, foundational training in computer use, to intermediate curriculum in areas like computational thinking and Microsoft Office Suite, to certification and credentialing opportunities that can act as pathways to employment or higher education preparedness.

Together, Connect the Unconnected and ReStart are creating opportunities to chart a new course in Cleveland around connectivity and access for all. We may not all want or need to be techies, but the speed and impact of technology and innovation isn’t slowing down anytime soon. It’s up to us as a community to ensure that everyone in our region has the resources and tools to keep pace.


Click here to see our director of programs, Liz Forester and the CEO of CMHA, Jeffery Patterson as they discuss with Ideastream the partnership of our organizations in the creation of ReStart and Connect The Unconnected.

Asthma and Data: Tracking Air Quality And Pediatric Health

Data Analysis of Pediatric Asthma Patients Gets Positive Reception for Next Steps in Funding

On October 25 and 26, 2016, the  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) convened a Global Cities Teams Challenge dedicated to superclusters. A supercluster is a set of cities facing a similar set of problems with a common solution. By using supercluster solutions, cities can solve existing problems with existing software.

The chosen supercluster solution sets are:

  1. Emergency Preparedness, Disaster Recovery, and Resilience

  2. Energy, Utilities, Water, and Microgrids

  3. Environment and Healthcare

  4. Municipal Dashboards

  5. Transportation

Addressing Disease as a Supercluster Solution

DigitalC presented as the only group working to solve a significant disease, pediatric asthma. We are involved in two specific projects to fight the disease:

  1. Reducing the Frequency and Morbidity of Pediatric Asthma in Dayton, OH

  2. Connecting Schools, Clinicians and Caregivers Via a 1 Gigabit Connection in Chattanooga, TN


The presentations were timely and well-received, with specific and helpful questions asked by our audience that will help as we work to move both projects forward. For example, we must work out what to do with a kid that doesn’t wear the asthma air quality sensor. Or, how can we use the technology for this project for other healthcare projects.

How the asthma app works

An air quality sensor is worn by a child with asthma. The sensor is continuously sending data to a smartwatch also worn by the child. The data is retrieved wirelessly and transmitted to the data hub. Any changes in a child’s breathing that is being monitored is tracked to see if and when the child should go to a hospital.

"Childhood asthma is a debilitating disease that affects 12% of children and that number is growing," said Marv Schwartz, Principal Investigator.

"By using the first wearable air quality monitor and a smartwatch, medical teams will now get reports on air quality and a child's breathing, warning them if there is an emergency. This kind of pre-warning has never been available before, and the impact will reduce complications and could save lives."

Communication is key between school, home, and doctor

In the second project we are working on monitoring the child’s asthma through a combination of the school nurse, an at-home care provider, and the child’s doctor. This project is underway in Tennessee as we focus on better communications between all three parties.

More on the study here.
Two following graphics by Mari Hulick show more detail of the two projects.


DigitalC releases the Civic Insights Hub

DigitalC releases the Civic Insights Hub, an open data and analytics site for community good

Have you ever wanted to analyze the performance of your local school? Would you like to know the quality of your water? Do you want to know the economic trends in your neighborhood? These questions, and many others from your daily and work life can be answered with data. Data that is free and available to the public, also called open data.

Open data is a hot topic in many industries today. Governments and other publicly focused agencies are moving to put open data online as a means of being transparent, and  for decades companies have been increasingly directed to be more open about their financial operations.  DigitalC is getting into the game as well, launching the Civic Insights Hub for community-wide access to data that can be used to improve our lives.  The Hub will accelerate access to a wide range of data sources by bringing them together in one place, and providing basic tools to make discoveries actionable. And it’s free for you to use.

More that just a place to put your data

The Civic Insights Hub lets you access a library of open data - over 300 files from 9 source organizations to start, and growing. More than just a data repository, the Hub is designed for you to access, select and analyze data for your projects to make your life, your job, and your community better.

DigitalC is also using data science to analyze the data on our site to create stories that are meaningful to the community. Take a look at the results, or insights, as we like to call them, and  use them to further your own projects or expand upon our findings.

One example of our use of  data science is where we  examine the economic and social challenges and opportunities faced by cities like Cleveland that are built on an inherited asset base (or manufacturing base) and are working to transition to an economy driven by technology.  There are over 25 of these so called “Legacy Cities” like Cleveland around the US.  We have begun to identify and analyze relevant characteristics, and as we apply more data science to evaluating where past and current initiatives have succeeded in rejuvenating these economies, we hope to inform policy makers about actions that can help overcome these challenges. Read more about legacy cities here.

In partnership with OpenCleveland, a Code for America organization, DigitalC dug into transportation concerns. We mapped out and analyzed the perceived transportation deserts in Cleveland attributed to RTA service cuts and the perceived negative impact on neighborhood access.  We analyzed locations and calculated the walking time between each of 20,000 points in the city to the closest bus stop and created a HeatMap to display the bus stops in Cleveland. The findings were interesting and maybe not what some expected.  While there are areas that could benefit from more stops to reduce walking times, overall the map shows the RTA stations are well distributed across Cleveland.  In other words, there are very few transportation deserts. This is good news for the economics of Cleveland residents and the region, but we won't stop there.   We plan to take the analysis to the next level and compare this map to where jobs are located.  Read more about our findings here.

Open to everyone


We made the Hub open to everyone. In fact, we are asking you - our citizens, our public and commercial organizations, and educators - to help improve the usefulness of the Hub to the community.

We welcome you to

  • Suggest datasets for us to acquire.

  • Apply your insights to the data that we have.

  • Share your success.

  • Tell us what you want to accomplish with data, and let us help you achieve it.

Whether you are a citizen, a data professional, a developer, a journalist, or an educator you can explore the raw data from our library of datasets, analyze it with our mapping and graphing tools, and then apply your results to improve community issues.

If your job is to convince companies to locate to our region, or you are on a team working hard to provide social programs to the needy, or simply a citizen who wants to find ways to contribute to the vitality and progress of your community, the Hub has access to information and tools to help you make better decisions for these issues and more.

So join us on the Hub. Bring your passion and issues around key social, economic, and environmental topics. Let’s stimulate innovative thinking and develop data-driven solutions that benefit us all.