Washington, DC– Next Century Cities today announced the three winning cities of the inaugural Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Awards: Raleigh, NC, Austin, TX, and Louisville, KY. The three cities were selected for proposing innovative programs that will use high-speed broadband to improve civic engagement and democratic participation.
The Benton Awards were given by Next Century Cities, a nonprofit membership organization of over 145 mayors and city leaders nationwide committed to ensuring access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet access for their citizens. The three municipal governments that won for harnessing high-speed internet to enhance civic engagement were each awarded $30,000 and will receive hands-on technical assistance for the next year to help drive their projects forward.
“We know that broadband connectivity can bring economic and educational development to a region, but next-general broadband is also a valuable tool for empowering citizens to be actively engaged in their communities,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “Today’s three winning cities of the first Benton Awards show a range of exciting approaches and all share a strong commitment to better engaging their citizens using high-speed broadband connectivity.”
In Raleigh, NC, a team will develop InVision Raleigh, an immersive online tool that makes it easier for citizens to get involved in visioning and planning with local government.
“Raleigh has long been committed to providing high speed broadband options to the public as we recognize the importance of the infrastructure to community engagement,” said Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane. “We are incredibly excited to receive the Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Award to build upon on past successes and investments to provide our citizenry a tool that will allow greater engagement with and in city government as we look to improve services to the community that we serve.”
In Austin, TX, a program called Smart Work, Learn, Play will engage public housing residents near two public transportation hubs to increase citizen access to and use of online public services.
“Through this award, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) can help ensure mobility equity for residents in public housing in Austin – especially residents who can least afford it or easily navigate it,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “We welcome the opportunity to receive meaningful input on future transportation planning efforts and to begin to overcome the digital barriers that keep HACA residents from confidently and safely using a variety of transportation options.”
Finally, city officials in Louisville, KY plan to wire an existing community center in West Louisville with gigabit connectivity, creating a Gigabit Experience Center which will serve as a hub for this underserved community, providing access to digital training, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement opportunities.
“Gigabit connectivity would be a game-changer for Louisville's citizens and businesses—driving innovation, expanding our economy, and providing residents with new opportunities at home,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. “The Gigabit Experience Center will allow us to help our citizens see the enormous potential this technology has for reshaping our city.”
Next Century Cities will also elevate these three creative uses of next-generation broadband to bolster civic engagement and will promote replication of these projects nationwide.
The Benton Award is primarily supported by the Democracy Fund, with additional support from the Benton Foundation. More information about both the winning projects and the award program can be found on the Next Century Cities website at http://nextcenturycities.org/next-generation-engagement-awards.
Next Century Cities is a city-to-city initiative founded to support communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. As innovative municipalities across the country recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit level Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and connect residents to new opportunities, Next Century Cities will celebrate these successes, demonstrate their value, and help other cities to realize the full power of truly high-speed, affordable, and accessible broadband. For more information, visit nextcenturycities.org.