Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's a Portal? Pilsen Shows the Way

Mayor Daley was in Pilsen yesterday promoting "digital excellence," but what does that mean? The hope is that in the four demonstration communities of Pilsen, Englewood, Chicago Lawn and Auburn Gresham, use of digital tools and the internet will become commonplace for residents young and old, well-off and poor. It won't be easy because so many residents lack broadband access and don't have experience with on-line tools, but that's all included in the digital excellence plans that the communities are beginning to implement.

One thing is certain. A community will use the web more if there is relevant local content that is of value to residents, businesses and other stakeholders, and that's where the Pilsen Portal comes in.

Launched last week and still in beta form, the portal is intended to be a place where many, many local people contribute content, find content, and comment about what others are putting up. Already about 20 beta users have signed on as contributors and they're starting to fill up the calendar and the directory (check out the listing for Studio One Tattoos). Jaime Guzmán, on organizer for the project, is putting his videography skills to work profiling local businesses (Kristoffer's Cafe) and even the churches are getting involved putting up the schedules of masses and kermeses (summer festivals).

A dynamic community-created web portal won't bring digital excellence all by itself. But my hunch is that if the portal can engage scores of local people in the telling of the Pilsen story, circa 2009, that will be an important step on the road. And once Pilsen does it, others will follow.


Frank said...

it seems odd that the spanish translation is incomplete at best. is there a plan to fully translate the site? if not, the site is not really going to be useful to the majority of the community

Patrick Barry said...

That's right, the site is still in beta and isn't translated yet, though the two restaurant videos in the media library both are partly or entirely in Spanish.

If the site takes off with many contributors, I'd expect it to be a mix of English and Spanish and Spanglish, which is pretty much what you hear on the streets of Pilsen.

Chicago Garden said...

Frank's comment makes me wonder; how long before the community that this is suppose to help gets displaced and this portal is no longer of use to the people it was set up to help?