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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.

How fast is your Internet?

Last month the City of Seattle launched a new tool to collect resident internet speeds. To date, nearly 1,600 tests have been taken.

The Seattle Broadband Speed Test tool measures the upload and download speeds available to residential users at the time they take the test. Using this test, residents can check their speeds from any device at any time of day. When enough data is collected from a given census block, the results are displayed on a map. The data are also published to the City’s open data portal, data.seattle.gov.

Today, 97 percent of Seattle households can connect to broadband internet and more than 160,000 homes have access to gigabit fiber-to-the-premise broadband. Some households have a choice of two, and in some areas three, wired broadband providers; and most parts of the city have access to four or more wireless broadband providers. In practice, however, many households do not experience peak speeds due to using devices with older networking technologies, experiencing wireless interference or slowness during peak usage times, or purchasing slower or no home internet at all.

The crowdsourced data will help the City and its partners make data-driven decisions when prioritizing future broadband and digital equity efforts. Currently, the City is reducing barriers to broadband investment, investing in public/private partnerships, and exploring ways we can increase access to the internet in underserved areas. Over the past 18 months, these strategies have resulted in an increase in access to gigabit-speed broadband from 7 percent of Seattle households to more than 60 percent.

The Seattle Broadband Speed Test was developed in partnership with New America’s Open Technology Institute and Open Seattle. It utilizes technology provided by Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a consortium of research, industry, and public interest partners that collects Open Internet performance data. This technology is also used by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for its Measuring Broadband America study.

Take the Seattle Broadband Speed Test!

Learn more about the Open Technology Institute. [Link to www.newamerica.org/oti ]

Learn more about M-Lab. [Link to www.measurementlab.net ]

Learn more about Open Seattle. [Link to www.openseattle.org ]

 

SCSS upgrades lab with Tech Matching Fund

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Kudos to 23 community organizations who successfully completed Technology Matching Fund projects in 2015.  These projects achieved greater digital inclusion for over 4,100 residents in Seattle left behind by the digital divide.

One grantee, Somali Community Services of Seattle (SCSS), received a $9,000 award to upgrade their aging computer lab.   Computers almost a decade old made way for eleven new desktop computers.  The lab has since been used weekly to teach more than 215 youth, adults and seniors a variety of technology skills.  Classes are typically held twice a week for one hour by instructors versed in office computer skills.

Senior immigrants have especially benefited from these classes, because many had not been exposed to computers prior to arriving in the United States. The skills they learned in computer classes helped them write emails and letters to families and friends abroad. Some seniors even expressed a desire to teach these skills to youth as they learn and grow.   Somali businessmen and businesswomen also used the lab for crucial business tasks like creating budgets and flyers.

Executive Director Sahra Farah emphasized the value of City support for community-based organizations like hers.  “These funds help us fulfill our mission of assisting Somali refugee families and community members to achieve self-sustainable status in the communities they live in.  Because computer skills are such vital skills to have in the 21st century, these resources are irreplaceable in helping Somali community members stay relevant, and productive.”

Comcast cable franchise agreement approved

SPIN Network teaching Lao Women's Association students at Comcast cable modem recipient Filipino Community in Seattle

SPIN Network teaching Lao Women’s Association students at Comcast cable modem recipient Filipino Community in Seattle

On December 17, 2015, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to approve the renewal of Comcast’s cable-television franchise agreement. The 10-year agreement between Comcast and the City of Seattle includes significant benefits intended to improve Internet access in Seattle.

“The approval of this revised and improved franchise agreement reflects my administration’s commitment to digital equity, with more residents gaining access to discounted Internet service and resources to further close the digital divide,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We are a city known for our technology and innovation, yet even in our connected city, digital opportunity is lacking for far too many. The benefits included in this agreement will have a meaningful impact on digital equity in Seattle, helping new populations gain access to the Internet and learn the skills necessary to be part of our digital society.”

The vote follows efforts by Mayor Murray and City Councilmember Bruce Harrell to get Comcast to increase its commitment to digital equity in Seattle, and ensure that any benefit commitments by Comcast were made in a legally enforceable manner.

“We demand the best customer service for our residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “We focused on expanding low-income discounts and ensuring all residents get the best service.”

“In addition to providing cable television service to Seattle residents, the revised agreement includes many important community benefits, including discounted Internet service to low-income seniors, a $500,000 digital equity grant, and a partnership to provide devices such as laptop computers for housing-insecure youth,” said Michael Mattmiller, the City’s Chief Technology Officer.

The 10-year agreement between Comcast and the City of Seattle includes significant benefits intended to improve digital equity and access to information in Seattle. Benefits of the agreement include:

  • 600 free cable modem Internet connections to non-profit organizations serving Seattle residents, valued at approximately $10 million. These connections help increase digital equity by increasing the number of sites where the public can access the Internet.
  • Approximately $8 million to support public, education, and government television cable channels, including the Emmy Award-winning Seattle Channel.
  • Free cable television service to government and school facilities, valued at more than $2 million.
  • Discounted basic cable television service for low-income households.
  • Discounted Internet access through the Comcast Internet Essentials program for low-income seniors and households with a child enrolled in the free or reduced price school lunch program.
  • $500,000 in funding to support the City’s digital equity initiatives, with grants of $100,000 per year for five years.
  • A new partnership between the City and Comcast through which housing-insecure youth will be able to obtain devices, such as laptop computers, for accessing the Internet.

“I am thrilled to know we have leaders willing and ready to fight for digital equity in our City. CTAB heard from Seattle residents that providing affordable access for seniors and youth is a priority,” said Amy Hirotaka, chair of CTAB. “With this new Comcast franchise agreement, we can tell our community that we heard them, fought for them, and delivered. CTAB and the Broadband committee should be proud of the work done throughout this process.

Nourisha Wells, the outgoing chair of the City of Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB) noted the revised Comcast agreement is a step forward for the community. “Seattle is such a technologically advanced city it is easy to overlook the digital disparities in certain communities. This new Comcast agreement places our commitment to digital equity front and center and increases the ability of our seniors, youth, and low-income residents to benefit from, and help drive technical innovations for years to come.”

The approved Comcast franchise agreement will take effect on Jan. 21, 2016 and last a decade.

– See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/seattle-approves-revised-cable-franchise-agreement-with-comcast/#sthash.2gTgZ2QU.HkLG8Iiy.dpuf

National Award for Technology Matching Fund Grants

digitalinclustion2Seattle’s Community Technology Program has been honored by The National League of Cities, Next Century Cities, and Google Fiber with one of their inaugural Digital Inclusion Leadership awards.

The award recognizes the City’s Technology Matching Fund grant program as a leading best practice in fostering digital inclusion. Winners were chosen on the basis of a program’s ability to provide training, access, and hardware to a diverse range of participants, at low cost, with proven results and community engagement. The awards were established to celebrate the cities that are leading programs or empowering community-based organizations to tackle barriers to Internet adoption, and to encourage leaders in the public sector to get involved in digital inclusion by sharing best practices.

Over the past 18 years, the Technology Matching Fund program has enabled 153 community organizations to build their capacity to provide technology and internet access, digital skills training, and electronic civic engagement. The majority of City funding for the program has been allocated from cable franchise fees, and has reinvested over $3.9 million in community based projects. The City’s 2015 Technology Matching Fund projects, selected in July 2015, will collectively receive $470,000, enabling increased digital equity for more than 14,900 residents. Fund recipients are recommended by the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board and approved by the Mayor and City Council. The program has served as a model for other cities.

“This program is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure all Seattle residents can participate in our increasingly digital society,” said Michael Mattmiller, City of Seattle Chief Technology Officer. “This award is the result of strong commitment and partnerships for digital equity between our community organizations, Mayor Ed Murray, City Council, Community Technology Advisory Board, Department of Information Technology and the many volunteers and supporters working to help bring digital inclusion to all residents.”

The award was presented to the City of Seattle’s Department of Information Technology’s Community Technology Program on Thursday, November 5, at the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities event in Nashville, Tennessee.

For more information on the Technology Matching Fund and the Community Technology Program in the Department of Information Technology, visit http://www.seattle.gov/tech/TMF.

Free modems for eligible nonprofits – apply by November 15

The City of Seattle Access for All High-Speed Cable Broadband Program offers Internet connections and services to eligible organizations located in Seattle. These connections are provided by Comcast and Wave Broadband as part of our effort to ensure that residents have access to essential services and the information technology necessary for employment, lifelong learning, civic engagement and cultural participation.

To be eligible, you must be:

  • A non-profit organization
  • Providing computer and Internet access and/or training to technology underserved residents;
  • Located in the city of Seattle; and
  • In a location serviceable by either Comcast or Wave Broadband.

Apply by November 15, 2015 to be connected this year by visiting http://www.seattle.gov/tech/cable. If you have any questions, please contact Derrick Hall at derrick.hall@seattle.gov or by phone at 206-233-5061.

Hundreds of youth bridge the digital divide

NS_computer classThis fall, hundreds of kids from North Seattle are returning to school empowered with new computer knowledge.

In the 2014 round of Tech Matching Grants (TMF), North Seattle Boys & Girls Club (NSBGC) was awarded $20,000 to create 23 computer work stations, now providing free computer access and education to hundreds of youth. Volunteers and staff monitor the labs, offer technology classes and partner with community organizations to offer additional programs.

Since the computers’ arrival last fall, the equipment has been in almost continual use. During the school year, homework takes priority for computer use as more than 100 youth come to the Club each afternoon. Various age groups cycle through the computer labs for designated homework time, with staff and volunteers available to help complete assignments. Each evening, technology education classes engage kids in activities like writing newsletters and designing projects.

Having the computer labs on-site also allows several special projects. Teens used the computers to research electric airplanes, create a blog about their community service projects, and learn about resume building. Younger kids used the computers to experiment with robotics, create newsletters and design graphic projects.

This summer, the North Seattle Club was selected to pilot a new Google CS First (Computer Science) curriculum. Led by AmeriCorps VISTA staff, youth as young as 4th grade experimented with writing code. This fall, North Seattle will continue the program with Club staff and volunteers teaching the class.

“Our computer labs are a springboard for so many programs and opportunities,” says Joan Caldon, Club Executive Director for NSBGC and STEM committee member for Boys & Girls Clubs of King County. “Strong technology skills open doors for our Club kids, and will likely provide a way out of poverty for many.”

 

2015 Technology Matching Fund Grants

tmf

Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell (left) welcomes the 2015 Technology Matching Fund recipients to City Hall.

STEM programs, community radio stations, English language and literacy training, job finding assistance, expanding and upgrading computer labs for disadvantaged kids and low-income seniors, the recipients of the 2015 Technology Matching Funds grants have projects as diverse as their backgrounds.

Part of Seattle’s commitment to digital equity, the Technology Matching Fund provides grants annually up to $30,000 for technology projects.  City dollars are matched by the community’s contribution of volunteer labor, materials, professional services, or cash.  The next grant deadline will be in March, 2016. The Technology Matching Fund seeks to improve digital equity by connecting populations that have limited access to technology, empowering residents with digital literacy skills, building capacity for diverse communities to use technology for civic participation.

This year the City awarded grants to 22 local nonprofit groups. A sample project included:

  • The Big-Brained Superheroes Club will provide a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program for youth from Yesler Terrace, ages 8 and up.

The Coalition for Refugees from Burma will use the funds to purchase new laptops and provide basic computer literacy courses for newly arrived refugee adults, conduct trainings for parents of school aged youth to support their children’s education, and offer enrichment programs to engage youth with high-tech concepts and careers.

Seattle’s Millionair Club plans to expand the current computer lab from eight workstations to 32 to become a Workforce Development site and provide job safety training, financial literacy, and online educational opportunities.

Sound Care Child Solutions wants to provide tablets for classrooms in 30 Sound Child Care Centers and train teachers how to use them, share with parents on devices, and translate into the home language of the family.

If you have a local nonprofit and want more information on Technology Matching Funds grant you can go to the Community Technology website, read Brainstorm e-zine or follow Community Technology on Facebook  or Twitter @diginclusion. This year half of the recipients had never received grants before. Maybe you can be one of the many success stories.

Best of luck to all of the nonprofit recipients. We look forward to seeing the lives you enriched through your programs.

See more here.

City donates computers to Seattle Jobs Initiative

art

On June 4, Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) received 20 surplus desktop computers with all the peripherals (keyboards and mice) from the City of Seattle.  The City approved the donations to SJI on April 16, 2015.  The computers will be given to SJI’s Career Pathway Program participants.   The Career Pathway Program is an initiative to train low income Seattle residents and help them obtain certificates and credentials that can be leveraged to get a living-wage job.

On any given day, there are more than 350 participants in the Career Pathway Program.  The program began in 2011, with funding support from the City’s Office of Economic Development.  The program leveraged its relationship with the Seattle College District and designed a program focused on enrolling low-income participants into colleges and providing wrap-around support services to keep them there.  Presently, the program has served almost 1,000 participants in four main training sectors;  automotive, manufacturing, office occupations, and healthcare.

The computers that the City donated will be distributed to participants through an essay contest.  All of the participants that are currently “in training” in all four sectors are encouraged  to submit an essay on how a computer will improve their training.  A committee will review the essays and 20 participants will receive a computer.

“Many thanks to the City of Seattle for their donation of these computers,” said Wesley Nguyen of the Seattle Jobs Initiative. “The Career Pathway participants will truly benefit from receipt of these training tools.  It will allow them to practice their training skills (hardware and software), gather information online for their classwork, and communicate with their instructors and classmates.”

Seattle Jobs Initiative offers low-income individuals training that leads to college credentials in growing local industry sectors. We creatively align support services – intensive college navigation, housing, childcare and transportation – to provide participants the best opportunity to complete their career pathways and to secure and retain well-paying jobs. The objective is to help individuals who live below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to acquire the skills they need to advance out of poverty, while simultaneously meeting the needs of local employers for a skilled workforce.

For more information about the City’s computer surplus donation program to non-profits, see http://www.seattle.gov/tech/freeComputers.

Google grant: Wi-Fi ‘hotspot’ devices available at The Seattle Public Library

hotspot145x110The Seattle Public Library has given Seattle residents another good reason to have a Library card.

Thanks to a $225,000 grant from Google, anyone with a Library card can now check out Wi-Fi hotspot devices to use at home.

“You simply check them out as you would any book, CD or DVD,” said Marcellus Turner, city librarian.

Mayor Ed Murray joined Turner, Google Seattle Site Director Clyde McQueen, and FareStart graduate Jason Mattingly at the Central Library Monday, May 18, to launch the program.

“Broadband is becoming a necessity to be successful in today’s world,” said Murray. “Whether applying for a job, completing a homework assignment or paying a bill, you need access to the Internet. Thanks to the Library’s partnership with Google, this new initiative will help hundreds of Seattle families check out their own Wi-Fi hotspot.”

A 2014 city of Seattle Information Technology Access and Adoption report revealed that over 90,000 Seattle residents lacked Internet access at home. When household income dropped to under $20,000, approximately 57 percent reported having no access.

“Loaning mobile hotspots to people living without broadband access is another way The Seattle Public Library is taking our mission beyond the walls of our libraries and directly to our patrons where they are,” Turner said.

The Seattle Public Library currently provides more than 800 Internet computers across 27 locations, which are heavily used. Each location also offers free Wi-Fi.

“Far too many Seattle residents do not have regular access to the Internet, and as a result find themselves excluded from a wealth of education, employment and community resources,” McQueen said.

Mattingly said the mobile hotspots will be particularly helpful to students and job seekers who cannot afford a data plan or Internet service. “The mobile hotspots will make a big difference in many people’s lives,” said Mattingly, who relied on Library computers to find a job when he was a student at FareStart. Mattingly is still an active Library user and is excited about the hotspot program.

The Library’s grant from Google not only covers an initial pilot for 150 Wi-Fi hotspots, but 75 laptops bundled with hotspots that are expected to be available for checkout in late July. The grant also covers outreach work so the Library can introduce hotspots and laptops to populations with the greatest need for these services, particularly immigrants and refugees. That effort will get underway this summer as well, and will include an education component.

“This innovative program to loan hotspots and Wi-Fi-enabled devices is a simple, effective way to help those who need broadband and technology the most,” McQueen said. “With this donation, Google hopes to give some of the most underserved in our city a way to bridge the tech divide.”

For more information, Ask a Librarian or call 206-386-4636.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director
206-386-4103