The City of Seattle Awards $400,000 to Help Improve Digital Equity

Photo courtesy YouthCare, a 2018 recipient

 The Technology Matching Fund grants will be offered for the 21st year in a row to organizations in Seattle working on improving lives through technology literacy

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved $400,000 in Technology Matching Funds be awarded to 12 local organizations. These grants are given out annually to uphold the commitment by the City of Seattle as outlined in the Digital Equity Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to improve connectivity, digital skills training, and provide devices, and technology support to communities that might not have equitable access.

“Furthering technology equity and access is an important way to create opportunity for historically underserved neighborhoods,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “These investments allow our communities to capitalize on technology and job training while making a more inclusive city.”

This year, projects receiving funds will support a broad range of community-driven, collaborative solutions to achieve digital equity in Seattle. They will reach over 8,300 residents, including immigrants, refugees, seniors, youth, and people with disabilities.

“It’s a pleasure to be part of this process each year as we build this relationship with organizations that are making a difference in making technology more available to everyone,” said Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell. “We inch closer to digital equity each year when we allocate this funding. I’m especially pleased to see this funding package emphasizes programs that work with adults and youths experiencing homelessness.”

City funding for the awards is matched by the community through additional cash, donations of hardware, software, supplies and labor. A one-half to one match is required of each organization receiving funding; however, the community contribution is often greater than the City’s support. This year’s projects are projected to provide more than $300,000 in community matching resources.

“It’s a pleasure to award these grants that help build vital skills like job hunting, helping kids with homework, and accessing government services,” said Tracye Cantrell, Acting Director of Seattle Information Technology. “Through increased outreach to the community, we saw a greater number of submissions this year from a diverse pool of applicants, which is exciting.”

The 2018 Technology Matching Fund award recipients and their projects:

  • Community Passageways: Technology Equity for Young Adults of Color
  • East African Community Services: 2018 Technology Matching Fund
  • Garinagu HounGua: Garifuna Digital Literacy Workshop Series
  • Helping Link: Mobile Computer and iPad Literacy Lab
  • Literacy Source: Open Doors – Increasing Basic Digital Literacy
  • Millionair Club Charity: Computer Lab Expansion/Update
  • PROVAIL: Adaptive Technology for Children with Disabilities
  • Seattle Neighborhood Group: Building Our Bridge: Crossing the Digital Divide
  • Somali Family Safety Task Force: 2018 Digital Literacy in West Seattle
  • South East Effective Development: Technology Builds Community
  • United Indians of All Tribes Foundation: Broadband and Public Computer/Internet Access
  • YouthCare: Employment Technology Supports for Homeless Youth (pictured above)

To learn more about the City of Seattle’s commitment to Digital Equity and the Technology Matching Fund, visit http://www.seattle.gov/tech/initiatives/digital-equity/technology-matching-fund.

Mayor Durkan Creates Innovation Advisory Council

Mayor Durkan signed an Executive Order creating the City of Seattle’s first-ever Innovation Advisory Council (IAC) to harness the power of technology to create innovative strategies and solutions to the most urgent challenges facing Seattle and our region – from homelessness to transportation. Find the full press release here. Watch the full press conference on the Seattle Channel.

Some key things to know about the announcement:

  • Mayor Durkan is bringing together some of our region’s most innovative companies and organizations to address the City’s most urgent challenges – from homelessness to transportation.

Seattle has always invented the future, and we have some of the world’s most innovative companies right in our backyard.

Smart cities harness the power of technology and innovation in their community – and that’s exactly what Seattle is doing.

From homelessness to transportation to affordability, we need shared solutions that bring government, business, labor, philanthropy, and communities to the table. Initial commitments for the IAC by Amazon, Artefact Group, Expedia Group, Flying Fish, Microsoft, Tableau, Washington Technology Industry Association and Zillow Group.

The council will identify opportunities where technology and data can be used to help Seattle improve its processes.

Provide feedback on the City of Seattle’s website!

The City of Seattle’s Digital Services Team is looking for the public’s help. The team members who work to maintain Seattle.gov are looking to make some improvements and need feedback from the people who use the site. Seattle.gov is where the public logs on to pay bills, look for services, and access City data, among other things. The team wants to improve the search function within Seattle.gov and they need a few volunteers to help with this process.

What will volunteers be doing?  

  • Volunteers will be asked to conduct a few web searches on Seattle.gov and give feedback on the results they see. It will take approximately 30 minutes.
  • Volunteers will also have the option to sign up to participate in future Seattle.gov tests to improve the features and usability for everyone on this site.

Who is eligible to participate?  

Eligible participants:

  • Must live in Seattle
  • Are over the age of 18
  • Have searched for information on the internet
  • Speak English
  • People with disabilities are encouraged to participate

Where will this take place? 

The team will coordinate to meet participants at a public location of their convenience (for example, a library or community center) through July and August. The team is hoping to complete sessions by the end of August.

How to sign up? 

It takes about two minutes to sign up with basic contact information. Visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VWWQVPP or email usability@seattle.gov with your name and the best way to get in contact with you.

Congratulations to the Seattle Channel for Winning Four NW Emmy Awards

Seattle Channel is the recipient of four Northwest Regional Emmy Awards for public-affairs, arts and environmental programming and an interview special. The winning programs covered topics ranging from safe injection sites to a tribute to the vinyl music format.

The city-operated station was recognized Saturday, June 9, at the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts & Sciences’ (NATAS) Emmy Awards ceremony.

“From City Hall to Seattle’s vibrant neighborhoods, the Seattle Channel is a cornerstone for civic engagement,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “We are fortunate to have a station that provides in-depth coverage of our city and diverse communities, people and places, and that offers residents an opportunity to stay informed and engaged. I congratulate the team for this recognition, and on its dedication to excellence in local programming.”

Seattle Channel won in the public affairs program/special category for a City Inside/Out episode exploring the controversy around safe injection sites where addicts can use illegal drugs under supervision. Individuals recognized for the coverage were host and producer Brian Callanan, producer Susan Han and photographer/editor Matt Peterson.

Ian Devier, producer/photographer/editor, won in the environmental feature category for a CityStream segment on Nube 9, a local company that makes athletic wear from recycled plastic bottles.

Art Zone with Nancy Guppy won in the arts/entertainment special category for a show dedicated to the vinyl music format – from its history to life-changing record stories. Individuals recognized for the special were host and senior producer Nancy Guppy, producer Sheila Mullen, director and photographer Vincent Pierce and editor Peggy Lycett.

Art Zone with Nancy Guppy also won in the interview/discussion special category for an in-depth interview with Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready. Individuals recognized for the special were host and senior producer Nancy Guppy, producer/photographer/editor Ralph Bevins and photographer/editor Peggy Lycett.

“Through its in-depth and inclusive programming, Seattle Channel reflects the city’s commitment to public engagement and transparency,” said Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell, chair of the Governance, Equity & Technology Committee. “From public policy to community features, I applaud the station for its commitment to feature a variety of voices and perspectives.”

In the 55th annual Northwest Emmy’s, Seattle Channel competed against commercial and public television stations in the Northwest NATAS five-state region which includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. This year, the station received 12 Emmy-Award nominations in program categories including health/science, public-affairs feature, informational segment, politics/government special, editing and reporting.

“Seattle Channel is committed to producing quality content with depth and impact,” said Shannon Gee, Seattle Channel’s interim general manager. “Our public-affairs programs spark informed civic dialogue, and our arts features and community segments entertain and inspire. I’m honored to work with a team dedicated to sharing a variety of engaging programs with the residents of Seattle.”

Seattle Channel is a local TV station that reflects, informs and inspires the community it serves. Seattle Channel presents programs on cable television – channel 21 on Comcast (321 HD), Wave (721 HD) and 8003 on CenturyLink (8503 HD) – and via the internet to help residents connect with their city. Programming includes series and special features highlighting the diverse civic and cultural landscape.

Government Hackathon: Seattle IT Contributes to Winning Project

When King County Information Technology (KCIT) teamed up with Amazon Web Services to put on a Government Hackfest last month, Seattle Information Technology (Seattle IT) employees were all in. The challenge of the Hackfest was to develop government solutions using digital assistants, artificial intelligence, business intelligence, and big data technologies within the Amazon Web Services ecosystem.

The first of three teams, which included Lawrence Yu, Brandon Ha, Jim Thurnau, and Kenneth Wong analyzed house and structure fires in Seattle to determine if the age of each structure had any correlation with the fire.

“We used Seattle’s Open Data Portal to gather data including 911 calls and when the property was built,” said Brandon Ha, a senior software application developer in Applications. “We used Tableau to map it out.”

“It was like the data version of iron chef,” said Kenneth Wong, a senior business analyst in Applications. “You had the ingredients and had to determine what to cook in a short amount of time.”

Their team did find that older homes, especially those built in the late 90’s, had more tendency to catch on fire.

The team of Steve Weston, Tom Puskas, Tuan Vuong, and Rufi Mallick produced an Alexa skill to provide information on scheduled events called “Event Tracker” at the Seattle Center. The team used Amazon Web Services Lambda, the Alexa skill, and an existing public web service.

This project is being developed by Slalom and will be made available to the public later in the summer. Here’s an example of what the skill will allow you to ask:

“Hey Alexa, …. “
“Tell me what is going on is Seattle Center today, Tomorrow or the weekend”
“Tell me when is Paul Simon playing next”
“Which events are for Children”

The winning team, which included members of KCIT including Kam Suen, Mike Jeppesen, and Dale Brandenstein, as well as Seattle IT’s Jeffrey Stewart. The team produced an Alexa skill to provide available parking spaces at the City’s e-Park garages. They used Lambda function, as well as data from the City’s public facing internet site.

“We didn’t create new data; but rather, we equipped a digital assistant with that data,” said Jeff Stewart, cross platform services manager in Applications.  “This enables people to get to the data faster from their hand’s free mobile assistant while en route downtown.”

Here’s how the Seattle Center Parking App will work: Instead of going to the Seattle Center Website, you can ask Alexa the following:

“Hey Alexa, ask Seattle e-Park about Pike Place garage?” …Pike Place garage currently has 347 parking spaces available.
“Ask Seattle e-Park where is Pike Place?”  …Pike Place garage is located at 1531 Western Ave.
“Ask Seattle e-Park what is near Pike Place?”  …Convention Center, PSP Cobb,…

All who participated say it was a good, but grueling experience and a great way to network with government employees who are in the same field.