Connectivity and Health in Orchard Knob
Combining public Wi-Fi connectivity with residential energy improvements, Orchard Knob Collaborative is creating a healthier, safer, and more economically viable community.
The Orchard Knob Collaborative, a multi-stakeholder partnership including Parkridge Health System, the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association, EPB, Habitat for Humanity, green|spaces, and The Enterprise Center, has a vision for a vibrant and thriving Orchard Knob community that is healthy, safe and economically viable. By working together, Orchard Knob Collaborative is determined to improve the health and well-being of approximately 1,000 residents through this pilot project.
As the pandemic continues to demonstrate, the digital divide is a systemic barrier to success and public health in the 21st Century. Almost no aspect of life remains untouched by technology, and both access to, and understanding of, these technologies remain critical to modern life. Currently, however, Orchard Knob – a historically underserved neighborhood in Chattanooga – only has one public Wi-Fi access point.
The Orchard Knob Collaborative pilot project intends to improve connectivity access and health outcomes through a multifaceted approach. This pilot project will expand broadband access, add walkable public Wi-Fi, and provide digital literacy training to residents of the Orchard Knob neighborhood. To improve health outcomes, this pilot project will provide energy-efficiency improvements to homes, Smart Home options, and telehealth technologies. The combination of increased connectivity with home improvements will result in a future-ready, Smart Community approach to connectivity and improved quality of life for those who live in the Orchard Knob neighborhood.
Working together with EPB, the Orchard Knob Collaborative will install 21 access points across the neighborhood in high-traffic areas that will allow for public Wi-Fi access. Additionally, the Orchard Knob Collaborative will work with neighborhood residents to ensure that all have broadband internet access in their homes either through EPB’s dedicated program for qualified students located in the neighborhood or through the Emergency Broadband Benefit program provided by the Federal Communications Commission.
Providing the internet is the first step – digital literacy classes and devices for connecting to the internet are important as well. To address this, Tech Goes Home (TGH) will partner with schools, public libraries, churches, and other community anchors in Orchard Knob to offer free, 15-hour courses designed to help residents use the internet and smart technologies to positively impact their daily lives. Participants can then purchase a new Chromebook or tablet for a small fee and take advantage of free, ongoing TGH-sponsored digital skills development opportunities.
Twenty-four households will receive a Smart Home retrofit that will include HVAC upgrades, Internet of Things (IoT) integration, and home repairs to provide more equitable access to connected services. green|spaces will install indoor sensors in each home to monitor environmental factors to learn how certain environmental factors impact public health. These home retrofits will help residents decrease both their carbon footprint and utility bills. Habitat for Humanity has already provided similar upgrades to five homes in the neighborhood and has five more scheduled in the coming year.
Success for this pilot project will be measured by:
- The number of houses upgraded
- Number of residents trained via Tech Goes Home
- Number of public Wi-Fi user sessions
- Number of telehealth visits
- Number of users on the community resource hub
These metrics will help the Orchard Knob Collaborative understand the frequency of use of newly installed Wi-Fi access points as well as overall participation in the pilot project.
Key Levers for Success
This pilot project leans on the knowledge and expertise of various partner organizations to reach its many outlined goals. Many members of the project team were already working together in support of other neighborhood initiatives within Orchard Knob. This strong foundation of partnership is important for the success of the pilot project. In addition, without the support of the neighborhood, along with the other organizations, it would be difficult to achieve such success.
Another important piece of this pilot project is the intertwined nature of many aspects of the project. For example, providing internet without digital literacy classes may not help more residents increase their connectivity. By thinking holistically, the pilot project aims to provide all aspects of connectivity to the neighborhood.
The Enterprise Center (TEC) unites people, organizations, and technology to build an advanced and inclusive future for the community. Chattanooga is a pioneer in developing, testing and scaling smart technology designed to improve urban life. TEC convenes The Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative, a group of institutions focused on conducting research and developing technology that serves residents.
Orchard Knob Collaborative (OKC) began in the fall of 2019. Tom Ozburn, CEO of Parkridge Health Systems, and Marvene Noel, president of the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association, began recruiting other partners to form the OKC. The goal of the partnership is to direct investments from Parkridge and their partners to neighborhood priorities, addressing the social determinants of health through improvements to physical infrastructure, social infrastructure and healthy living.
Parkridge Health Systems is in Orchard Knob and offers compassionate care alongside advanced healthcare technology and innovative procedures. Through the OKC, Parkridge has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to eliminating environmental factors exacerbating or at the root cause of ill health. The 275-bed hospital features comprehensive diagnostic and medical/surgical services, including cardiovascular surgery, cancer treatment, intensive care, orthopedic and spine surgery and rehabilitation.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Area partners with corporations, churches, civic groups, and individuals in the Chattanooga community to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and for their families.
green|spaces is an award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to advancing the sustainability of living, working, and building in the Chattanooga region. Their diverse programming leads individuals, organizations, and communities through simple, practical and affordable steps to improve outcomes for the planet, people and the local economy.
EPB Chattanooga’s municipal internet service and energy provider was founded with the mission to “enhance the quality of life for our customers and support local economic growth.” EPB made Chattanooga “The Gig City” by offering 1,000 Mbps residential internet speeds beginning in 2009. In 2015, EPB was the first in the world to offer 10,000 Mbps to every home and business in the community. Since then, EPB has continued to provide Chattanooga with reliable service, expanding energy solutions, and state-of-the-art fiber optics technology, which spawned one of the nation’s smartest Smart Grids and has resulted in billions of dollars in local economic impact. Their commitment to the community, through initiatives like HCS EdConnect, remains a national model.
Next Steps / Timeline
Broadband and Smart Home Infrastructure
- Broadband deployment (3 months)
- Infrastructure improvements will occur concurrently with Smart Home upgrades (3-4 per quarter)
Programs and Activity Interventions
- Tech Goes Home digital literacy classes (up to 2 per quarter)
- Health screenings and wellness telehealth visits to residents (ongoing)
Ongoing Community Support and Storytelling
- Develop and launch a community resource hub (4 months)
- Resource guide and playbook to share learnings with other communities (released yearly)
May 2023 Kickoff Event