Apply now for Technology Matching Funds

The City of Seattle is now accepting applications for the Technology Matching Fund. Grants of up to $50,000 are available. The deadline is Wednesday, May 4, at 5:00 p.m.

The Technology Matching Fund provides funds for digital equity projects.   The goals of the fund are to increase access to free or low-cost broadband, empower residents with digital literacy skills, and ensure affordable, available and sufficient devices and technical support.

This year the fund seeks to support creative and collaborative approaches.  Priority will be given to projects that strengthen community partnerships, leverage existing expertise, and engage historically underserved or underrepresented communities.

More information is available here, or contact Delia Burke at (206) 233-2651 or communitytechnology@seattle.gov.

Farewell Brainstorm, welcome SeattleIT

This is our final edition of Brainstorm and start of changes to the Community Technology Program. We will still be sharing digital equity and city resources, success stories and events, but in a different form and more timely manner. This week, the City launched the new SeattleIT department and a new web site to go with it. Seattle.gov/tech is now the new department site and a new presentation of our services. We are retooling our web content and communications to integrate with our new web site design and channels. Community Technology is also becoming Digital Equity as we “modernize” our language and program focus.

We have been publishing Brainstorm monthly for 15 years, updating all on community technology issues. We’re proud to have been able to collect and deliver a treasure chest of community info, tech tips, learning resources and more. Our deep thanks to D.H. Cass Magnuski, who has been our Brainstorm editor and designer.

New tech advisors appointed

Chris Alejano, Heather Lewis, and Mark DeLoura have been named to Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB). Joneil Sampana was also re-appointed to a second two-year term.

The 10-member board, appointed by the Mayor and City Council, helps guide City strategies and investments in information and communications technology.  They advise Seattle’s information technology department, the Mayor and Council on a range of issues, including broadband, digital equity, mobile and web based services for Seattle.gov, privacy and technology, social media, open data, online public engagement, the Seattle Channel, and cable TV franchise agreements. Board members make recommendations for the Technology Matching Fund grants.  

 

ChrisChristopher Alejano has served as the Director of Education for the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) since 2009, enabling technology education for youth of color. He manages support for their Academy, STEM by TAFTeacher Institute and School Transformation, and Martinez Fellowship. Christopher previously served as a higher education policy adviser in Governor Gregoire’s administration and as a research analyst for the Washington State House of Representatives Early Learning and Children Services Committee, after years working as a kindergarten teacher.

 

Heather LewisHeather Lewis currently serves as the vice-chair of CTAB’s E-government Committee. She works as an Innovation Officer at CoMotion at the University of Washington, and was also a co-founder of Biokick. Heather worked on white papers on cryptocurrencies, and municipal fiber at the UW Law School Technology Law and Public Policy Clinic. She has volunteer experience with the YWCA as a Board Fellow and in assisting with education at the Refugee Women’s Alliance (REWA). She is also a committee member at Social Venture Partners.

 

Mark DeLouraMark DeLoura recently moved back to Seattle after two years as Senior Adviser for Digital Media in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he focused on computer science education, diversity in the tech industry, and utilizing games for education. This included work on Code for America-style initiatives, hackathons and game jams. He is a  UW Computer Science graduate, and subsequently spent more than 20 years building technology in the game industry, starting as a software engineer and growing to lead about 300 engineers across 10 locations worldwide.

 

joneil custodioJoneil Sampana is currently the Chair of the E-government Committee and past Vice-Chair of CTAB. He led the development of the Washington State Data Visualization Internship Program, a partnership with State of Washington Office of CIO, WTIA, Microsoft, Socrata, Tableau, and four universities. Joneil is a resident of southeast Seattle (District 2) and a Business Program Manager at Microsoft.

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.

 

Oldies but goodies updated

As Brainstorm comes to an end, I decided to write an update to the oldest article I could find.  Technology changes every day and what was important years ago may not be relevant or needed today.

In an article produced in June 2004, it was titled, “What type of internet should I get?” It is still true that you need to know the audience for which you want to filter.  For fewer than 10 computers, I would recommend using Microsoft’s Family Safety software.  You can pay for a license if you like, but if you are using a Windows computer this software is free.

In the future, if you have a question on how to fix, configure, or use something,  you can always do one of two things: Use  a search engine to find out more about the subject or simply contact me at derrick.hall@seattle.gov.

Topic: What type of internet filter should I get?

When choosing an internet filter, think about the following items:

  • Who are your users? Users doing research or just browsing the net?
  • Are you managing 10 or fewer computers or a large lab?
  • Hardware you are using, older machines may run slower.
  • Hardware or software device? Software can slow your computer down.
  • Do you plan to expand your lab in the future?

Internet filters are great to keep users from accessing sites you don’t want them to access from your computers.  Most internet filters would work great when you’re using them at home because you’re managing just the one computer.  In a public computer lab, you normally have several computers that you have to maintain.  If you are managing fewer than 10 computers then you can use any of the software filtering companies out there such as Cybersitter or NetNanny or ContentProtect.  The cost for these types of software filters cost from $29 – $39 dollars and they normally have nonprofit and academic discounts.

If, however, you’re looking to manage more than 10 computers or you’re trying to save time when it comes to updates you may look at some hardware or proxy type of options.  Proxy solutions would require a server with proxy software installed on it.  The problem with the proxy solution is you might disable other types of access to the internet; also your initial configuration could take time.  With a hardware filter solution it would filter each piece of traffic from the internet

 

Before you connect your computer to the internet

Why Should I Care About Computer Security?

Computers help us maintain our financial, social, and professional relationships. We use them for banking and bill paying, online shopping, connecting with our friends and family through email and social networking sites, researching data posted on the internet, and so much more. We rely heavily on our computers to provide these services, yet we sometimes overlook our need to secure them. Because our computers play such critical roles in our lives, and we input and view so much personally identifiable information (PII) on them, it’s imperative to maintain computer security that ensures the safe processing and storage of our information.

How Do I Improve the Security of My Home Computer?

Following are important steps you should consider to make your home computer more secure. While no individual step will eliminate your risk, together these defense-in-depth practices will make your home computer’s defense stronger and minimize the threat of malicious exploit.

Connect to a Secure Network
Once your computer is connected to the Internet, it’s also connected to millions of other computers, which could allow attackers access to your computer. Information flows from the internet to your home network by first coming into your modem, then into your router and finally into your computer. Although cable modem, digital subscriber line (DSL), and internet service providers (ISP) purport some level of security monitoring, it’s crucial to secure your router—the first securable device that receives information from the internet. Be sure to secure it before you connect to the Internet to improve your computer’s security. (See Securing Your Home Network for more information.)

Enable and Configure a Firewall
A firewall is a device that controls the flow of information between your computer and the internet, similar to a router. Most modern operating systems include a software firewall. In addition to the operating system’s firewall, the majority of home routers have a firewall built in. Refer to your user’s guide for instructions on how to enable your firewall. Once your firewall is enabled, consult the user’s guide to learn how to configure the security settings and set a strong password to protect it against unwanted changes. (See Understanding Firewalls for more information.)

Install and Use Antivirus and Antispyware Software
Installing an antivirus and antispyware software program and keeping it up to date is a critical step in protecting your computer. Many types of antivirus and anti-spyware software can detect the possible presence of malware by looking for patterns in the files or memory of your computer. This software uses virus signatures provided by software vendors to look for malware. Antivirus vendors frequently create new signatures to keep their software effective against newly discovered malware. Many antivirus and anti-spyware programs offer automatic updating. Enable that feature so your software always has the most current signatures. If automatic updates aren’t offered, be sure to install the software from a reputable source, like the vendor’s website or a CD from the vendor. (See Understanding Anti-Virus Software.)

Remove Unnecessary Software
Intruders can attack your computer by exploiting software vulnerabilities (that is, flaws or weaknesses), so the less software you have installed, the fewer avenues for potential attack. Check the software installed on your computer. If you don’t know what a software program does and don’t use it, research it to determine whether it’s necessary. Remove any software you feel isn’t necessary after confirming it’s safe to remove the software.

Back up important files and data before removing unnecessary software in case you accidentally remove software essential to the operating system. If possible, locate the installation media for the software in case you need to reinstall it.

Modify Unnecessary Default Features
Like removing unnecessary software and disabling nonessential services, modifying unnecessary default features eliminates opportunities for attack. Review the features that came enabled by default on your computer and disable or customize those you don’t need or plan on using. As with nonessential services, be sure to research these features before disabling or modifying them.

Operate Under the Principle of Least Privilege
In most instances of a malware infection, the malware can operate only under the rights of the logged-in user. To minimize the impact the malware can have if it successfully infects a computer, consider using a standard or restricted user account for day-to-day activities and only  logging in with the administrator account (which has full operating privileges on the system) when you need to install or remove software or change system settings from the computer.

Secure Your Web Browser
Web browsers installed on new computers usually don’t have secure default settings. Securing your browser is another critical step in improving your computer’s security because an increasing number of attacks take advantage of web browsers. (See Securing Your Web Browser.)

Apply Software Updates and Enable Future Automatic Updates
Most software vendors release updates to patch or fix vulnerabilities, flaws, and weaknesses (bugs) in their software. Because intruders can exploit these bugs to attack your computer, keeping your software updated is important to help prevent infection. (See Understanding Patches.)

When you set up a new computer (and after you have completed the previous practices), go to your software vendors’ websites to check for and install all available updates. Enable automatic updates if your vendors offer it; that will ensure your software is always updated, and you won’t have to remember to do it yourself. Many operating systems and software have options for automatic updates. As you’re setting up your new computer, be sure to enable these options if offered. Be cautious, however, because intruders can set up malicious websites that look nearly identical to legitimate sites. Only download software updates directly from a vendor’s website, from a reputable source, or through automatic updating.

Use Good Security Practices
You can do some simple things to improve your computer’s security. Some of the most important are:

  • Use caution with email attachments and untrusted links. Malware is commonly spread by people clicking on an email attachment or a link that launches the malware. Don’t open attachments or click on links unless you’re certain they’re safe, even if they come from a person you know. Some malware sends itself through an infected computer. While the email may appear to come from someone you know, it really came from a compromised computer. Be especially wary of attachments with sensational names, emails that contain misspellings, or emails that try to entice you into clicking on a link or attachment (for example, an email with a subject like that reads, “Hey, you won’t believe this picture of you I saw on the Internet!”). (See Using Caution with Email Attachments.)
  • Use caution when providing sensitive information. Some email or web pages that appear to come from a legitimate source may actually be the work of an attacker. An example is an email claiming to be sent from a system administrator requesting your password or other sensitive information or directing you to a website requesting that information. While internet service providers may request that you change your password, they will never specify what you should change it to or ask you what it is. (See Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks.)
  • Create strong passwords. Passwords that have eight or more characters, use a variety of uppercase and lowercase letters, and contain at least one symbol and number are best. Don’t use passwords that people can easily guess like your birthday or your child’s name. Password detection software can conduct dictionary attacks to try common words that may be used as passwords or conduct brute-force attacks where the login screen is pummeled with random attempts until it succeeds. The longer and more complex a password is, the harder these tools have to work to crack it. Also, when setting security verification questions, choose questions for which it is unlikely that an Internet search would yield the correct answer. (See Choosing and Protecting Passwords.)

Tip courtesy of US-CERT Publications.  Read more tips from US-CERT here: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips

Supporting active and connected lives

Supporting Active and Connected Lives as More Americans Live Longer: A President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology report identifies technologies and policies that can add to older Americans’ independence. Get the skinny here.