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.

SCSS upgrades lab with Tech Matching Fund

Somali
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.”

Mobile Citizen update

On January 29, Sprint and Mobile Citizen joined together to ask the court to extend a preliminary injunction that temporarily saved internet access for people on the WiMax network. The court approved it with a revised shutdown schedule for Seattle on February 29, 2016, as opposed to the original shutdown date of February 2.  This will allow them time to refine a plan with Sprint to offer Mobile Citizen’s users with a 30 GB+ 4G LTE data-only plan (with no throttling, suspension or overage charges after 30 GB). The plan does not include off-network roaming and it is subject to any standard network management that Sprint may apply to commercial broadband data-only account users.

What is happening?
EveryoneOn plans to disconnect its customers who get Internet access through Mobile Citizen on February 29, 2016.

How are you affected?
Mobile Citizen is working to find you alternative internet access. Their top priority has always been keeping you connected and will keep you updated as they review any options. Please check their blog (http://mobilecitizen.org/blog/) regularly.

Why can’t Mobile Citizen provide me with internet directly?
Mobile Citizen is not permitted to service individuals directly. They work with hundreds of nonprofits to ensure people in need around the nation have access to what has become an essential resource in the 21st Century.

Public access sites get upgraded service

Through the City of Seattle’s agreements with the cable providers in our area, we are able to offer free Broadband Internet service to non-profits that provide technology classes or public computer usage to the City’s under-served residents.

Under the new agreement with Comcast, recipients in their service area will be providing second tier service, which means you should be receiving speeds up to 50 Mbps and be eligible for basic TV service.  If you are already a Comcast free internet recipient through our program, your speed and TV service will be coming soon.

For more information go to: http://www.seattle.gov/tech/cable

Comcast has recently upgraded or installed these sites:

  • Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHS):  CHS provides access to residents and provides internet capability to help residents with online applications, employment searches, social media connecting individuals with families back home, and basic computer literacy skills in their computer lab.
  • Frederic Ozanam House:  Uses this free service to their residents to increase the availability of internet access, allowing for easier access to online resources residents use to secure housing, benefits, and other services without having to wait for assistance by one of the staff members.
  • Southeast Effective Development (SEED):  SEED is able to present residents with opportunities for career advancement and radio involvement, engage Seattle’s at-risk communities, empower individuals and families with practical technical and radio broadcast skills that they may use in differing professional, personal and civic contexts for many years to come. This project is also building the number of internet savvy volunteers who can segue into key roles at RVR.

Youth build skills and a voice

Stories of families arriving in Seattle need to be heard from the families themselves. Bilen is a youth blogger with the PugetSoundOff.org, a  site and project run by the YMCA. She’s writing and speaking up about her experiences coming to the United States. Her messages, along with others blogging, are about respecting culture.

Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller, Joel Farris from the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation, and David Keyes of the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) Community Technology Program, dropped by recently to hear from Bilen and other youth in the program. It led to a rich discussion about tech jobs, digital equity efforts, and technology and policy in Seattle. In discussing the upcoming Seattle.gov web redesign, students shared their real world experience helping family members find and translate online info into English. They shared some of their posts and plans.

Funding from DoIT and grants from others, including the Department of Neighborhoods and Office of Arts and Culture, has supported training, the online platform, and most importantly, opportunity for youth voice.  These include videos like “How Technology is Changing Seattle,” and “Here,” perspectives on what it’s like to be LGBTQ in high school, produced by the Chief Sealth International High School’s Gay Straight Alliance with the support of PugetSoundOff.org staff.

The City of Seattle DoIT funding in 2015 enabled digital literacy skills training for 174 teens, including 26 digital media internships. Project Director Kate Schneier explained that building self-confidence and civic voices goes hand-in-hand with development of their technology skills. Students learn to write blogs and take pictures that illustrate their messages. Video production training offers another outlet for creativity and message making. Through this, they practice articulating their points of view, talking to others about it, and learning to be more comfortable asking questions of others and discussing different views.  A milestone for them last year was working with other groups to host a Youth City Council Candidates’ Forum.

Their efforts also pay off in stars, or credits, they can earn from different writing and tech skill building activities. Rewards are offered along the way and enough stars earn students their own computer.

One project for this year is a photo narrative project to counter negative impressions of South Seattle with the positive stories of this very diverse community of interesting and caring residents.  Stay tuned to PugetSoundOff.org and follow #seayouth to learn more and engage with the powerful voices of Seattle youth. For more information about the program, you can also contact Kate Schneier at KSchneier@seattleymca.org or 206-549-3055.

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

Seattle picked for Code for America fellowship program

Code for America announced new partnerships with six local governments for the 2016 Code for America Fellowship Program.

The governments are: Seattle, Washington; Kansas City, Missouri; Long Beach, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York City, New York; Salt Lake County, Utah.

“We are truly excited to partner with an organization so renowned for its work enhancing digital government. This work will aid our city’s ability to help those most in need.” —Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle, Washington

The Code for America Fellowship pairs local governments with teams of mid-career, civic-minded technologists for one year. Governments and fellows selected for the 2016 Fellowship develop digital approaches to delivering public services that:

  • improve access to health and human services in Kansas City, Missouri and New York City, New York,
  • safely reduce incarceration in Salt Lake County, Utah and Seattle, Washington, and
  • promote economic development opportunities in New Orleans, Louisiana and Long Beach, California.

 

“We are pleased to have such an innovative partner working with us to connect officers, service providers, and those in need quickly and efficiently. This is another example of technology driving positive change for all.” —Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, Seattle Police Department

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

 

Remembering Charles Benton, honoring media and tech diversity

Charles Benton passed away April 29th. He was an important film distributor and philanthropist. Charles was also a huge champion of participatory and open democracy and public policies that supported local media and digital equity. His personal time and the Benton Foundation’s work has been critical, providing plain language interpretation of policy making and updates, and supporting education and advocacy for community technology and media makers across the country. He will be sorely missed, but his daughter, the Benton Foundation and many others are carrying Charles’ spirit forward. See comments from Bill Moyers, former FCC Chair Michael Copps and others at the Benton Foundation web site.

Low Cost Internet & Computer Options

Visit our Home Internet & Computers page page for your current options in low cost Internet and computers.  City of Seattle Community Technology Program, with the Communities Connect Network/EdLab Group, hosted a webinar on each of the options available to Seattle residents. This included panelists from InterConnection, CenturyLink, Connect2Compete/EveryoneOn, and Solid Ground’s ConnectUp.

You can access the webinar here.