Empowering immigrants and refugees through computer literacy

Story by Alia Marsha, The Seattle Globalist

Imagine how hard it would be to access information and resources if you didn’t have computer skills. Now imagine if, on top of that, you have just moved to a foreign country and were still learning the predominant language.

The goal for the Coalition for Refugees from Burma’s program “Nexus: Connecting Newcomers with Technology” is to remove those barriers for recently-arrived refugee and immigrant communities.

The Coalition for Refugees from Burma (CRB) has secured a grant from the City of Seattle through the Technology Matching Fund (TMF) for the third time to continue their computer literacy programs

When the CRB began in 2009 there was a larger community of refugees and immigrants from Burma in the Seattle area. Since then, though, a lot of them have moved to more affordable cities. According to the City’s Office of Immigrants and Refugee Affairs, as of October 2015, there are 261 refugees from Burma in Washington state. Five years prior, in 2010, there were almost 800 refugees from Burma in the state, according to data by the U.S. Department of State Refugee Processing Center.

Responding to the change, in 2016 CRB started to expand their computer literacy programs to serve all recently-arrived refugees and immigrants. CRB collaborated with partners like Seattle World School, Somali Youth and Family Club and the Seattle University Center for Service and Community Engagement to ensure its computer classes are linguistically and culturally relevant. It has also expanded its program to include immigrants and refugees in Kent.

According to Siobhan Whalen, a program manager at CRB, this past year in the Kent program alone, CRB served immigrants and refugees speaking over 13 languages from eight countries.

Rosa, an immigrant from Mexico who moved to Seattle in 2002, is one of those clients. Her son goes to Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, where the Seattle University Center for Service and Community Engagement hosts “Family Talk Time,” a program to help English Language Learner families get involved with conversations that happen at the school. This was also where the computer classes taught by CRB were held.

Rosa joined the program at the beginning of 2016. Because of the computer classes, Rosa now has a Gmail account. But there are many other tech skills she wants to learn this coming year.

“I want to know the other programs I have on my computer, use more of my fingers on the keyboard,” said Rosa.

The TMF award will also allow CRB to file paperwork to reduce monthly home internet costs for Rosa and others, from $45 to $10.

Whalen, who is also an instructor, said that the impact of those computer classes on immigrants and refugees is very immediate. “That’s part of technology, right? That immediate access to information, to opportunities, to resources,” she said.

Whalen recalls seeing that impact hit her inbox on a recent day, following one of the computer literacy classes at Bailey Gatzert. Students had just gone through a lesson on making an email account and practicing writing messages to each other.

After the class was over, Whalen opened her inbox to find an email from one of the parents in the class: “We really want more computer classes.”

“We just thought, how cool, that almost instantly that this parent felt empowered and had a platform for her voice to reach out to me and our partners at Seattle U. It was like full circle I think for myself and for the Seattle U folks — that advocacy piece,” said Whalen.

Learning technical skills is an important part of those classes, but Whalen says that the CRB is really interested in building confidence so that the communities they serve are able to advocate for themselves and their families.

 

David Keyes, City of Seattle’s Digital Equity Manager, Wins Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award

David Keyes
City of Seattle Digital Equity Manager

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has named David Keyes, Digital Equity Manager for the City of Seattle, the first recipient of the Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award.

“The NDIA is proud to recognize David Keyes, who has championed a holistic approach to closing the ‘Digital Divide’,” said Angela Siefer, NDIA Director.  “David’s approach goes beyond computers and wires to include affordable broadband service, the skills needed to make the most of technology, and the content and services relevant to user’s lives.”

Named for Charles Benton, the founder of the Benton Foundation, the award was created by NDIA to recognize leadership and dedication in advancing digital inclusion:  from promoting the ideal of accessible and affordable communications technology for all Americans, to crafting programs and policies that make it a reality.

In nearly 20 years of public service in Seattle, David Keyes has used data to document community needs and direct programs, been committed to racial and social justice, and built a movement over time by engaging local elected officials, businesses, education partners, and community organizations in solutions.

“In 1997 David was appointed Seattle’s Community Technology planner and within a couple of years he was a leading figure nationally in the movement we then called ‘community technology’,” said Siefer.  “Despite being busy leading the City of Seattle’s model digital equity programs, David continually lends his leadership skills and thoughtful guidance to state and national efforts.”

Keyes will be presented his award on May 18, 2016 at Net Inclusion: The National Digital Inclusion Summit in Kansas City by Adrianne B. Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Foundation.

WAVE Broadband cable customers: We want to hear from you!

 

 

Seattle’s cable franchise with WAVE expires in 2017.

We’re gathering community input as we prepare for negotiating the new franchise.

Join our first community meeting on the WAVE franchise renewal:

Monday, June 8, 2015
6 – 7:30 pm
Douglass-Truth Library
23rd & Yesler, Seattle, WA

Can’t make this meeting? There are other ways to share input:

e-mail: cableoffice@seattle.gov
telephone: 206-684-8498

For more information, visit www.seattle.gov/cable/franchiserenewal.

Get Online Seattle provides online job resources & tools

 

 

 

NEWS RELEASE

Get Online Seattle provides online job resources and tools

SEATTLE (July 17, 2014) The City of Seattle has launched Get Online: Jobs & the Internet, an online toolbox for residents who are new to job searching on the web. The Seattle.gov/getonline web site and print materials provide information to help understand and manage your online presence, use the right tools for your job search, and tips for making job connections both on and offline.

Get Online Seattle education materials also promote options for affordable home Internet and locations with free access to computers and the Internet.

“Using the Internet is critical to finding and applying for jobs,” says Michael Mattmiller, Acting Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle. “This campaign is part of our effort to advance digital equity – ensuring all Seattleites have access to and proficiency using internet-based technologies.”

Jobs & the Internet is the second topic of the ongoing Get Online Seattle campaign to provide residents with the necessary skills to navigate the Internet, find content relevant to their needs, and access affordable Internet. The first topic focused on health resources, including what to look for in a reputable health site and what sites to avoid. The next Get Online Seattle campaign, to be launched in October, will focus on learning and education resources.

Visit www.seattle.gov/getonline for more information about the jobs campaign, resources and tips for use. Posters and leaflets are also available via the web site or by calling 206-233-7877.

The Get Online Seattle: Jobs & the Internet campaign is run by the City of Seattle’s Community Technology Program in partnership with the City’s Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board, Seattle Public Library, Seattle Goodwill, and YWCA Works.

The City of Seattle’s Department of Information Technology’s Community Technology Program works to ensure all residents have the opportunity to access online city services and get online for civic and cultural participation, education, and employment. For more information, visit http://www.seattle.gov/tech/.

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Contact Vicky Yuki at vicky.yuki@seattle.gov or 206-233-7877 for more information