NDIA partnered with the Illinois Broadband Lab to host the inaugural Illinois Connected Summit—a statewide digital equity event! The three-day regional Summit featured tracks on digital inclusion, deployment and research.  Highlights included lightning rounds showcasing local programs, and a wonderful evening reception at Navy Pier with the stunning Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

While the speakers are rooted in what is happening throughout Illinois, the summit brought together over 300 people from across the Midwest. Attendees included broadband champions, digital inclusion practitioners, researchers, policymakers, local government representatives, community anchor institutions, and ISPs—all dedicated to addressing digital equity. It was incredible to have digital inclusion practitioners and those working in broadband deployment together to share ideas, learn from each other and collaborate.

“Illinois Connected 2024 was an opportunity to celebrate Illinois’ digital equity ecosystem, recognize accomplishments to date, and build partnerships and momentum ahead of the anticipated $1B+ of broadband and digital equity resources coming over the next five years. Seeing digital inclusion practitioners and internet service providers listening, learning, and planning side-by-side offers confidence in Illinois’ ability to make the most of the historic opportunities coming our way. We’re grateful for NDIA’s partnership in standing up this meaningful convening—bringing best practices, training, and tailored development to digital inclusion practitioners statewide, all through the essential equity lens.” 

Devon Braunstein, Director, Illinois Office of Broadband

As a community working together to leverage the unprecedented amount of broadband funding to support new and existing digital inclusion work across the Country, NDIA encourages other state broadband offices to consider hosting digital equity summits of their own.

These events foster sharing, learning and networking among members from digital equity ecosystems. In Chicago, we were excited to promote the exceptional digital inclusion work being done by community based organizations, community anchor institutions, local governments and others. 

If you’re interested in expanding your state’s reach to covered populations, scale programs of excellence, and reduce duplication of effort let us know! NDIA is available to support a limited number of state broadband offices in developing and implementing statewide convenings. To learn more, please contact Amy Huffman, Director of Policy, NDIA. 

The summit featured three tracks:

1) Digital Equity Track: We kicked off the summit with workshops on digital inclusion essentials, preparing for digital equity funding and sustainability, and digital navigator sessions. Panels covered building community partnerships, advancing digital equity for covered populations, and reaching marginalized communities.

2) Deployment Track: Included a showcase of Illinois Broadband grantees and panels on community-led broadband planning. We also looked at advancements in rural communities, funding local broadband expansion, workforce development, and the role of campuses and communities in broadband development.

3) Research Track: An interactive half-day workshop with panels focused on research about broadband and digital equity, plus displayed research posters on various Illinois-based research projects. Speakers shared their insights  and recommendations for research projects that will support both the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program and Digital Equity Act (DEA) investments.