Digital Equity Action plan launched

On March 30, Seattle’s new Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan was launched by Mayor Murray and 100 others, gathered at Yesler Community Center. The Plan provides steps forward for the City to provide equitable technology opportunities for all Seattle residents and communities through greater internet connectivity, skills training, and devices and technical support. Google also announced grants totaling $344,000 to provide greater wifi in the community centers, computers for learning labs, and help for 400 families in public housing to obtain internet connections as part of the City’s ConnectHome broadband adoption program.

A video of the event is available on the Seattle Channel.

“Seattle is a city known for its technology and innovation, yet too many residents do not have sufficient internet access, a high-quality device or the skills necessary to participate fully in our high-tech economy and community,” said Murray. “Working together, we can make Seattle a leader in ensuring digital equity and opportunity for all of our residents.”

Thanks to Hassan Wardere of Horn of Africa Services, Mama Fadumo from Yesler and Big Brain Super Heroes, Rosanna Stephens from Seattle Goodwill, Charles Brennick of Interconnection, Darcy Nothnagle from Google, and Kyle McSlarrow of Comcast for helping launch the plan and sharing how critical this digital inclusion work is.

The Digital Equity Initiative was launched in response to the City’s quadrennial Technology Indicators Report, released in May 2014. The Report found significant disparities in internet access and digital literacy skills for those of lower education, low-incomes, seniors, disabled, minorities, and immigrants. The Initiative is one part of the Mayor’s broadband strategy to increase access, affordability, and public-private-community partnerships. It seeks to ensure all residents and neighborhoods have the information technology capacity needed for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

The City is investing $1.6 million on the Initiative this year through a combination of City staff time, financial investments, and community partnerships, the focus on the three prongs of the Action Plan: devices and technical support, skills training, and connectivity.

Both Google and Comcast pledged their support at the launch event. Through their partnership in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ConnectHome program, Comcast is expanding the eligibility criteria for their discounted internet service nationwide, called Internet Essentials, to all public housing residents, opening eligibility up to over 4,900 Seattle households. They have also begun offering Internet Essentials to low-income seniors in Seattle.

Google’s pledge of $344,000 will support wifi access at 26 Seattle Parks’ community centers, 31 computers for their technology learning labs, and a grant to provide three years of internet service for 800 low-income students residing in Seattle Housing Authority facilities. These investments are based on the specific areas identified during the research phase of the Digital Equity Initiative.

“With these grants, we hope to increase Internet access for those who need it most, whether to do their homework, connect with loved ones or to access important services,” said Darcy Nothnagle, head of external affairs for the NW at Google. “Google is thrilled that these grants will provide WiFi in all of the city’s community centers and equipment for their digital literacy labs, as well as home Internet access for very low income Seattle Housing Authority residents.”

“The Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan will be collaborative and data-driven,” added Michael Mattmiller, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle. “We could not do this important work alone—we are grateful for the ongoing partnerships with businesses, nonprofit organizations, community groups, educational institutions, and volunteers. We will continue looking for additional partnerships to stretch the City investments.”

The City of Seattle announced the cycle and focus for their annual Technology Matching Fund awards. Applications are due Wednesday, May 4. Additional information can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/tech/tmf.

For more information on the Digital Equity Initiative, visit Seattle.gov/digital-equity.