Chicago Global Family: Daniel X. O’Neil to speak on “Making Lives Better through Technology”


We are pleased to invite Daniel X. O’Neil, Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, to speak on “Making lives better through technology.”

Members: Complimentary
Non-Members: $10

Not a member? Become one here to have unlimited complimentary access to this event and all other Chicago Global Family events for one year!


If you have difficulties registering for this event, please CONTACT Rana Yurtsever, Program Director for Niagara’s Center for Public and Global Affairs, via email at [email protected] or phone 312-240-0707 Ext. 107.

Wednesday, June 24th.
11:30am- 1:00pm
Lunch will be served

Niagara Foundation-Chicago office
205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 4240
Chicago, IL, US, 60601

Daniel X. O’Neil is the Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to making lives better in Chicago through technology. Smart Chicago was founded by the City of Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust. It works on increasing access to the Internet, improving skills for using Internet, and developing meaningful products from data that measurably contribute to the quality of life of residents in our region and beyond.

Prior to the Smart Chicago, O’Neil was a co-founder of EveryBlock, a neighborhood news and discussion site serving 16 cities. He was responsible for uncovering new data sets through online research and working with local governments. In August 2009 EveryBlock was purchased by O’Neil has been a participant in the open data/ open government movement, advising governments and candidates on policy.

Prior to EveryBlock, O’Neil was an Internet strategist and project manager. He created a number of sites for municipalities, including the first Web site for the Chicago Inspector General. He’s run a number of independent Web projects, including CTA Alerts, CityPayments, and Wesley Willis Art. He’s published four books of poetry, all of which are still in print. In June of 2011 he was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for Technology and Innovation.

By Jihan Dubose, Intern, Center for Public and Global Affairs
Brianna Deigan, Intern, Communications

“In order to realize the value of technology, we must give up privacy; we must be more tolerant of human behavior that isn’t harmful.”

On Wednesday, June 24th, Niagara Foundation had the pleasure of welcoming Daniel X. O’Neil to speak at a Chicago Global Family event, “Making Lives Better through Technology.” As the Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, Mr. O’Neil’s talents and past times may surprise you. This UIC graduate has used his background in English and Anthropology to author four published books of poetry and take a crack at playwriting!

But Mr. O’Neil’s commitment to social justice is what drew him to technology, and propelled him to becoming the influential change-maker he is is today. His dedication to helping people from all walks of life and belief that technology can be used to create a better tomorrow are just two of the reasons he his so effective as the Executive Director of Smart Chicago. The Smart Chicago Collaborative is a civic organization here in Chicago that strives to reach beyond the constraints of socio-economics to improve lives through technology. The organization’s main focuses are: providing internet access, teaching digital skills, and interpreting meaningful data. Founded by the MacArther Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, and City of Chicago, Smart Chicago uses their support to address the pivotal question: “How can we use technology to help people”?

Smart Chicago has recently launched a program for the younger generation in the Chicagoland area. Youth Tech focuses on adolescents and teenagers in five Chicago communities, helping them discover how they can use technology to further their passions. Smart Chicago also works with Optimo One, a bilingual call center which provides employees with work experience and English language practice. O’Neil and his team were able to teach employees at this center how to use technology to manage information more efficiently. Here, is where O’Neil brought everything full circle. ( say something about how this is an example of how O’Neil address social justice issues through technology access and education)

While O’Neil and his dedicated team at Smart Chicago believe in what they’re doing, some skeptics question the trajectory of technology’s increasing presence in our lives. Many people are concerned that technological advancements have the potential to put people out of work. According to O’Neil, efficiency can be overdone, but benefit management is key regarding technology efficiency and job outsourcing. “I value people’s abilities,” he said. He also strongly promotes the use of ready-to-use technology to re-purpose in different ways. “It’s all about giving people agency to use technology” [ in the best way that benefits them].

Other guests expressed apprehension regarding surveillance and security, but leave it to O’Neil, accountability and not privacy, should be the concern. With a room full of inquiring minds, Mr. O’Neil’s enthusiasm and humor facilitated an enjoyable conversation about surveillance and security uneasiness. Mr. O’Neil explained that if people are willing to put the details of their lives on social media forums like Facebook, the public should regard the government’s access to their information with the same apathy. In fact, Smart Chicago also signs contracts for open data management for the city of Chicago; and it is methods such as this which have access to more public information than many individuals realize.

The bottom line is that technology has opened the door to globalized conversation and instantaneous news. Yet, the disclosure of massive amounts of public information demands a great deal of responsibility from the parties on the receiving end. The evolution of avenues for human production has always been an exciting journey with many benefits and drawbacks. Regardless, it is people like David O’Neil and his team at Smart Chicago that make sure such advancements are available to as many people as possible. In today’s modern society, social justice includes having a virtual voice too.

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.