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.

 

Lifeline program now includes discounted broadband

On March 31, 2016, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) approved rules to modernize the Lifeline program so subscribers will have the option to use it to buy discounted broadband. The Lifeline discounts will still be $9.25 per month and can apply to stand-alone broadband, bundled voice-broadband packages – either fixed or mobile – and stand-alone voice service.

What is Lifeline?

The Lifeline program was first created under President Reagan, and was designed to provide low-income Americans with financial assistance to purchase affordable phone service, so the most vulnerable Americans were connected to the rest of the country. In 2005, President George W. Bush expanded the program to include mobile phones. Now, in 2016, the use of the internet has become another vital way to communicate. The FCC therefore decided to it was time to modernize Lifeline and make sure that all Americans can access the broadband services they need. The Lifeline reforms would give the 12 million low-income households currently using the subsidy for phone service help paying their monthly broadband bill. And it has the potential to benefit millions more.

How Does Lifeline Work?

Lifeline provides a discount on service of $9.25 per month for eligible low-income subscribers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands. Subscribers may receive the Lifeline discount on either a wire line or a wireless service, but may not receive a discount on both services at the same time. Once the FCC’s new broadband rule is effective, Lifeline subscribers can select to use the discount toward broadband or broadband-voice bundle instead.

Who is Eligible?

To participate in the Lifeline program, subscribers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain assistance programs. You can see if you are eligible with the Lifeline Eligibility Pre-Screening Tool on the Universal Service Administrative website at www.lifelinesupport.org.

Following is a list of assistance programs that qualify a participant for Lifeline:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
  • State assistance programs (if applicable)

NOTE: These programs will change when the new rules become effective.

Can I start using Lifeline for discounted broadband right away?

No, the FCC’s rule approval triggers some additional steps that are needed before the program change will be effective and subscribers are able to use Lifeline for broadband. The FCC’s rule must first be published in the Federal Register and then approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The program administration will then need to be updated to reflect the new broadband options. These additional steps may take several months.  If you’re interested in using Lifeline for broadband, visit the website lifelinesupport.org for more information as program updates are made.

How can I apply for Lifeline support?

Apply for Lifeline through a Lifeline Program provider in your state or designated state agency. To locate a Lifeline provider in your state, go to lifelinesupport.org.

Digital NW Broadband Summit March 21

Join local and federal policymakers from across the Northwest region for a free Broadband Summit in Seattle on March 20-21, 2016, hosted by Next Century Cities and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). At the Regional Summit, broadband leaders, including mayors, industry experts, and federal and municipal officials, will share successes and real-world impacts from next-generation broadband access.

The summit will feature panels on what works, success stories, increasing access, digital inclusion, rural broadband applications, innovation partnerships, broadband business models, and options for financing. There will also be an opening reception the evening of the 20.

See more information, presenters and registration link.

CTO represents Seattle at Consumer Electronics Show

mattAs part of Mayor Murray’s commitment to data-driven transparent government, Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller presented at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Michael detailed Seattle’s role as a Smart City as part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s SuperSession on partnerships in government technology innovation.

The session was hosted by US CTO Megan Smith. In his talk, Michael focused on the Seattle 2030 District, Seattle Public Utilities Rainwatch program, MetroLab Network, Open Data, and Hack the Commute.

Watch the video. (Seattle starts at minute 45.)

Read the White House blog post.

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.

Microsoft expands digital inclusion commitment

Microsoft President Brad Smith announced a new global effort by the company to address the technology divide and establishment of a new Microsoft Philanthropies group to achieve this. Corporate Vice-President Mary Snapp will be leading Microsoft Philanthropies, with Lori Forte Harnick, as chief operating officer. This new effort builds on 30-plus years of work by Microsoft to help close the digital divide. The new initiative support for digital inclusion programs and partnerships, using investments of cash and technology, the technical talents of employees, their commitment to creative and collaborative partnerships, and the reach and scale of Microsoft’s brand and voice.  Learn more on the Microsoft Blog.

New Civic Technology Advocate Candace Faber

pic1The City of Seattle recently announced the creation of the Civic Technology Advocate position, and the selection of Candace Faber to fill this role.

In this new role, Faber will work with area technologists to increase use of the City’s open data platform, make connections into City departments to increase knowledge of business processes and opportunities, and encourage the development of new technology solutions that improve Seattle’s quality of life and further connect the public with their municipal government.

Faber brings extensive experience organizing Seattle’s civic technology community and the broader open data movement. She has led efforts including as Hack the Commute, the City’s 2015 transportation hackathon program, Hack to End Homelessness, and the Washington Technology Industry Association’s FullConTech. As the government-community liaison for Open Seattle, she worked closely with Seattle’s open data program, local technology firms, and the developer community. She will continue and expand this work in her new role.

Previously, Candace was a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, serving at the U.S. embassies in Russia, Poland, Belarus, and Afghanistan, and on the global e-Diplomacy team. Candace holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Washington.

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.

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.”

 

Digital Equity Phase 1 report now available

The City of Seattle is pleased to present the Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan: Phase One – Building the FoundationThe vision, principles and goals were developed through community input in the first phase of the project, which included in-depth stakeholder interviews, four roundtable discussions throughout the City, our Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB), and feedback from a City of Seattle interdepartmental team and an external Digital Equity Action Committee working together.  You can view the report here and read more about the Digital Equity Initiative here.

Please keep checking back as we will be reporting on our work as we further define strategies and prepare to implement in 2016.