City donates computers to Seattle Jobs Initiative

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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.

FCC seeks public comment on ‘Lifeline’ assistance for broadband

On June 18. 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its intent to restructure the Lifeline low-income telephone assistance program. Currently the Lifeline program provides a discount of about $9.25 on phone service to help low-income households afford a phone connection. The FCC is now considering modernizing the program to allow it to subsidize broadband internet services for low income households, too.

The FCC seeks public input to help guide this reform process.  Some example of the types of questions the FCC is considering are:

  • What should Lifeline’s minimum service standards be for voice and broadband?
  • How should the Lifeline eligibility and verification process be reformed to ensure the program targets those most in need of support?
  • How can providers be encouraged to participate in the program and help increase competition?

For more on the FCC’s interest in “bringing Lifeline in the 21st Century” in their blog post and Chairman Wheeler’s statement (pdf). The FCC also has a guide to the current telephone Lifeline program.

If you’re interested in Lifeline program reform and allowing low-income subsidies for broadband services, this FCC Rulemaking process is the opportunity to let your thoughts be known. The FCC’s full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available here. The official comment period runs for 30 days from when the Rulemaking Notice is published in the Federal Register.  As of July 2, the publication has not happened so the full 30 day comment period is still available.  Visit the Federal Register’s website here to subscribe to receive publication updates.

Code Day Seattle for Youth a success

The report is in from the organizers: CodeDay Seattle was an absolute success! Seventy-eight students, ranging from middle-schoolers to those in their final years of college, convened at the Russell Investment Center for 24 hours to learn, work, and build together, and eventually come up with some really novel and awesome ideas! If you aren’t familiar with this program, CodeDay is a triannual event, run in 24 cities nationwide by StudentRND, a 501(c)3 non-profit that seeks to get students excited about STEM and engineering. Each event is 24 hours, hosted in a hackathon-style, but the events are far less about the prizes and corporate sponsorship (as is common among many of the larger collegiate hackathons), and much more about learning new skills or even picking up coding for the first time in a setting conducive for growth. We had experienced mentors from local tech companies and interesting talks ranging from database basics to the importance of hacking itself.

Bruce Blood and Rebecca Lovell both gave great talks on the Open City Data API and the civic technology scene, respectively, which truly inspired the students to continue hacking for good while gaining some inspiration for their projects. One winning team developed a web app that used city data to find and map out the closest electric-car charging stations near to your current location, and another created an app that connects people looking to do something fun with somebody else, while yet another group decided to tackle cryptography and make it accessible and understandable to the masses. Fourteen awesome projects were made in total, all of them awesome and unique in their own ways!

In terms of pure statistics, this past CodeDay brought us closer and closer to our goal in achieving gender and ethnic parity in terms of our distribution of attendees. Nationwide, 40 percent of CodeDay attendees were female (as compared to a recent Dept. of Labor statistic that showed only 20 percent of software developers nationwide being female), and 20 percent identified as being part of an underrepresented demographic. We will only continue to try and achieve complete parity in future events, though!

Of course, this event wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as it was without the City of Seattle and the Department of Information Technology’s generous support throughout the whole process, so we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping support CodeDay Seattle and sparking that love for coding in as many students as possible!

This report is from student organizers Ryan Lieu, Nick Rubin and David Zhao.  For more info, contact David Zhao d.zhao999@gmail.com

 

Can your computer breathe?

Yes, your technology equipment needs to be able to get fresh air like us humans needing to breathe.  When technology gets too hot, things can just shut off.  It can be a bad thing.  For example, if you’re writing a letter on your computer and the computer shuts down, the letter can become corrupted.  If your device is performing updates and turn offs, this can cause the device to become unusable.

You should not use your laptop in bed. Most laptops have their fans on the bottom or on one of its sides.  Comforters and large blankets can block the fans, making it hard for the laptop to stay cool.

Desktop computers should have an internal cleaning.  Dust can accumulate inside of the computer, causing the ventilation system to not run well.  I recommend opening a computer every year or two, and vacuum the insides out.  Be careful not to unplug or move anything but also note that the inside of a computer should not fall apart if you use a vacuum cleaner hose to clean it.

Most mobile devices do not have a good ventilation system.  You should not run into a problem when charging them, but because they have a tendency to get warm you should not overuse them while they are charging.  Just like a regular computer they have a CPU and power source that gets hot.  Since they don’t have a good ventilation system, they could get hot, causing damage the mobile device.

OnGuardOnline.gov: be safe, secure and responsible online

At OnGuardOnline.gov, you will find information for your computer, your children and yourself.  Information is shared through videos, blogs and online articles.  You can also sign up for email updates to stay on top of the latest threats to your security.

The Federal Trade Commission manages OnGuardOnline.gov, in partnership with the federal agencies listed below. OnGuardOnline.gov is a partner in the Stop Think Connect campaign, led by the Department of Homeland Security, and part of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

New York State announces Broadband Champions

New York State announces Broadband Champions, including “Most Collaborative Broadband Adoption” program and “Best Broadband Adoption Initiative Award.” That one went to CFY Digital Learning, for their work in partnership with high poverty schools, combining family services and professional development. See more here.

Youth media project winners

Congratulation to Leslie, Jaycee and all the youth who created “The Question is” for winning 2nd place in the 2015 Adobe Youth Voices Awards animation category.  With entries from all over the world it is an amazing achievement.  Well done!

See all of the Adobe Youth Voices 2015 award winners here.

Washington State’s virtual Data Visualization Internship launches

Washington state government agencies and local software companies have joined together in a public-private partnership to create an innovative virtual Data Visualization Internship program for seven college and grad students and recent grads from across the state. To the organizers’ knowledge, this is the first internship to ever take place virtually. Bringing together industry, government, and education is what we do at WTIA and we got to organize the kickoff event for this summer internship program on June 23 at Tableau Software. After the kickoff, the interns toured Microsoft and Socrata, which are two of the software partners in this internship. Check out the photos from the event here.

Each student team will be matched with a mentor from a government agency and a data visualization software company. Will Saunders, senior program manager for Washington State’s Chief Information Officer, said the program is “using student time and cool software to produce a better visualization of what’s going on.”

Participating government agencies include the state departments of Employment Security, Labor and Industries, Early Learning, Ecology and Financial Management. Private companies were mainly chosen based on suggestions from agencies, and companies that either have prior contact with the state or interesting tools. Software companies participating include Live Stories, Tableau, Socrata, and Microsoft. Students at Washington schools were introduced to this program and encouraged to apply. Interns come from all over the state, including University of Washington, Gonzaga University, and Washington State University.

Joneil Sampana, Community Technology Advisory Board member for the City of Seattle and Public Sector Program Manager at Microsoft, described this program as a collective effort made possible by government, non-profit, university and corporate leaders. “I’m amazed at how quickly we were able to come together and mobilize our resources to provide this meaningful work-based learning project. Students and Agency leaders will work to develop compelling data-rich stories on important legislative issues. We are using 21st century technologies in our government to engage our next generation of leaders! We are creating a space for our government leaders, eager students, and data analytics mentors to collaborate and learn from each other.”

Two-thirds of the students come from Eastern Washington and only two are from the University of Washington.  Based on a new model, this virtual internship is designed to have everything done remotely from wherever the hired interns and involved companies are located. The virtual nature makes it easier for students who have other work and family obligations to participate. Washington companies saw the need for a low impact way to get student interacting with government differently.

One of the interns, Alexandra Tester, a recent Gonzaga University graduate, said, “I applied to this program because it offers an amazing learning opportunity in an area that I do not have much experience or knowledge in. I feel as though it will teach me skills that will be applicable and useful in my future work experiences. I currently work for Gonzaga University, so being able to intern from Spokane would not have been possible without the virtual aspect of the program and willingness of the mentors to remain involved through technology. I hope to gain a knowledge in an area that I have not been involved with previously and explore new opportunities.”

The interns will meet again on September 15 at an exhibition at WTIA’s Full ConTech.

City issues Municipal Broadband Feasibility Report

Last month the Department of Information Technology released the City of Seattle Fiber-to-the-Premises Feasibility Study, a feasibility study originally commissioned in December 2014, as part of Mayor Ed Murray’s three-part broadband internet strategy.

In the study, the consultant examined the feasibility of a municipal broadband delivery model, focusing on:

  • Reviewing the financial feasibility of constructing and operating a municipal broadband network in Seattle;
  • Evaluating the services and applications that are most likely to be utilized over a high-capacity data network; and
  • Analyzing current market conditions to gauge consumer interest in a broadband service and the current offerings in the market place.

For more information and to read the report, visit http://www.seattle.gov/broadband.