Today, Mayor Edward Murray announced the launch of the Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan. The Plan provides steps forward for the City to provide equitable technology opportunities for all Seattle residents and communities through device and technical support, greater Internet connectivity and skills training.
“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 our residents.”
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.
Through a combination of reallocated City staff time, financial investments, and community partnerships, the City is investing $1.6 million on this Initiative this year, focused on the three prongs of the Action Plan: devices and technical support, skills training, and connectivity.
Both Google and Comcast have pledged their support. 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 4900 Seattle households. Starting today, they are also offering Internet Essentials to low-income seniors in Seattle.
As part of today’s announcement, Google pledged $344,000 toward Internet connectivity and technology skills training for Seattle, including 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, non-profit 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. This year the fund seeks to support creative and collaborative approaches toward increasing access to free or low-cost broadband, empowering residents with digital literacy skills, and ensuring affordable, available and sufficient devices and technical support. A total of $320,000 will be awarded through matching grants of up to $50,000. Applications are due Wednesday, May 4. Additional information and dates for grant workshops can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/tech/tmf.
Launched in January 2015, the Digital Equity Initiative is co-sponsored by the Department of Information Technology and the Office of Civil Rights. The Action Plan is a culmination of year-long research and community engagement with more than 100 community members, technology leaders, civic and education leaders, businesses, and City department staff.
For more information on the Digital Equity Initiative, visit Seattle.gov/digital-equity.