CLICK SB: How a City, a Library, and a Regional Fiber Network are Partnering to Address the Digital Divide

by Jacob Burnett

Innovation doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. In the case of South Bend’s CLICK sites (Centers for Learning, Information, Connectivity and Knowledge), it was simply a matter of leveraging local assets to address digital inclusion in our city.

According to 2017 5-year American Community Survey Estimates, just over 66% of households in South Bend have an Internet subscription compared to about 80% nationwide. Obstacles in the way of at-home access range from cost to digital skills to hardware availability. Given that Internet access is increasingly essential for education, civic engagement, and economic participation, we knew we had to address this gap. Enter the CLICK SB partnership.

CLICK SB sites are connected community centers launched by City of South Bend, the St. Joseph County Public Library, and St. Joseph Valley Metronet. Each partner plays an essential role in CLICK SB: The Library provides equipment and staffing, the City provides monetary support, and the Metronet provides the high speed connectivity.

The goal is to provide welcoming digital learning environments equipped with high-speed Internet, training, and up-to-date computers and printers. These Centers exist in the areas of the city where at-home Internet adoption is lowest.

The City partnered with a research methods class at the University of Notre Dame to help design CLICK program. The class conducted over one hundred hours of in-person interviews with residents and community partners, facilitating a bottom-up digital inclusion planning.

CLICK SB has caught the eye of innovators across the state. TechPoint, the nonprofit, industry-led growth initiative for Indiana’s technology ecosystem, announced that the City of South Bend was a finalist for the Rising Tech City Award for the project. The Mira Awards celebrates the people, products, companies, and places chosen as ‘The Best of Tech in Indiana’.

The Department of Innovation and Technology is working towards developing more CLICK sites and community access points with a variety of partners across South Bend.

About the Author: Jacob Burnett graduated from Wabash College in 2015 and pursued graduate studies as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. He is currently a project manager for the Department of Innovation and Technology at the City of South Bend.