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.

Seattle Information Technology recognized at NATOA Awards in Seattle

Pictured from left to right: Brian Roberts, Jose Vasquez, Delia Burke, Jim Loter, Chance Hunt, Vicky Yuki, Derrick Hall, David Keyes, Chris Alejana, Gabriel Garcia

Big honors were given out to Seattle IT at this year’s annual conference of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) which took place in Seattle in September. The Digital Engagement Team was honored with two awards. Seattle IT’s Strategic Plan for Facilitating Equitable Access to Wireless Broadband was awarded the 2017 Community Broadband Strategic Plan of the Year. The Technology Matching Fund was awarded the 2017 Community Broadband Digital Equity Project of the Year.

Seattle Channel was named among the best municipal television stations in the nation when it received the prestigious Excellence in Government Programming along with eight other programming awards, including five first-place wins for programming.

Also recognized at the NATOA conference was Tony Perez, director of Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications. Perez, immediate past president and longtime member of NATOA’s Board of Directors, received NATOA’s 2017 Member of the Year award for his contributions to the field, including his leadership, policy development and strategic advice to ensure that communities benefit from the transformational nature of broadband technology.

NATOA is a national association representing the needs and interests of local governments in the areas of communications, broadband and technology. NATOA’s annual government programming awards honor excellence in broadcast, cable, multimedia and electronic programming produced by local government agencies. This year, NATOA received more than 900 entries submitted in 65 categories by local governments across the country.

Voices of Tomorrow: Breaking down cultural barriers in child care

Voices of Tomorrow: Breaking down cultural barriers in child care

Story by Joy Okot-Okidi

Voices of tomorrow has been serving East African childcare providers and their families for more than five years. The co-founders Zamzam Mohamed and Iftin Hagimohamed saw how a lack of cultural understanding in early learning was impacting their community. So they set out to better equip East African child care providers, children and families while breaking down cultural barriers.

Their mission reads, “helping today’s children for a better tomorrow.”

CEO Zamzam Mohamed says the hopes the organization will, “further bridge the cultural gap between Westerners and immigrants as far as childcare and raising children goes.”

The organization fully came together in 2012. Since then co-founders have worked to put together programs and conferences along with members of the community.

One such event in December was The Somali Women’s gala. The purpose of the event was to celebrate and empower Somali women in the local community. It also serves to appreciate and acknowledge the many women who work in the childcare field.

They also hold an annual childcare conference is held to support providers. This conference not only holds mandated trainings and improves professional development, but connects members of the community working towards a similar goal.

After receiving a grant from the City’s Technology Matching Fund, Voices of Tomorrow pushed to open a computer lab in the Hope Academic Enrichment Center, close to Voices of Tomorrow’s headquarters in South Seattle. The lab supports local childcare providers in gaining computer skills such as opening emails, responding to licensures and writing documentations.

Voices of tomorrow co-founder saw a common challenge among the 400 plus childcare providers in King County, and 166 in the Seattle area. They launched the computer lab project was started to improve tech literacy.

“People come in at different levels, so we created a ‘tailored needs service,’ where we will pair two people up. One who is very knowledgeable in the subject and someone who wants to learn about the certain subject. We use this system because our community of immigrants, especially where I am from, really thrives well with peer to peer support and activities,” said Mohamed.

Community members also come in to the lab to help providers with the various computer skills. In addition, about 80 children were given access to the computer lab for homework help, and to work with a teacher on computer skills like typing. Children in grades six and up were using the computer lab.

The lab features a total of eighteen HP computers, including a printer, copier, scanner and projector. The projector was used during a nine week literacy training, in three hour sessions taking place every Wednesday and Saturday beginning last December. After a successful launch, the computer lab has moved to the Voices of Tomorrow office, where community members can still drop in and assist each other with various skills.

Mohamed says East Africans have valuable cultural assets that can be applied to childrearing

“For example, our families use a lot of storytelling,” she explains “and parents may think that they have to relearn skills to help their children with what is being taught in school, But they already have the skills. They just have to connect the dots using the methods that they have.”

Voices of Tomorrow started with the idea of breaking that cultural barrier. So Mohamed says that when childcare providers can call Voices of Tomorrow and there is no barrier in understanding, it brings her immense joy.

She says that the most rewarding part of her job is when childcare providers have the “A-ha moment” where they try out a method in their own childcare program and it successfully helps a child do better.

In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.

Lazarus Day Center responds to homelessness crisis with devotion to service


Story by Hillary Sanders.

The Lazarus computer lab gives visitors access to software like Microsoft Word and provides an internet connection for clients to engage in housing and job searching, communicating on social media, or just watching a YouTube video to unwind. The computer lab is currently accommodating between 50 and 60 people per week.

As the homelessness crisis peaked in 2016, the Lazarus Day Center in Pioneer Square found itself serving more homeless and marginally-housed people than ever this last year.

“The Laz” as it’s lovingly called, provides a range of services for homeless and marginally housed people aged 50 and over. Those include laundry, showers, meals, counselling, housing case management, activities and classes, and as of this year, a 6-station computer lab.

As plans were being made to clear The Jungle, volunteers from the Laz went to the Seattle City Council and fought hard to get the funds that allowed the center to open earlier and provide more meals and add an additional housing case manager.

The Laz secured housing for 49 people in 2016 and expect that number to go up in 2017. With the help of the Technology Matching Fund, The Lazarus has also been establishing a technology center for its clients.

Prior to the construction of their 6-station computer lab, the Laz did not have computers or internet access for its clients. They now have staff building out classes specifically to help people develop computer skills.

According to Jennifer Newman, the Program Director at St. Martin de Porres Shelter and Lazarus Day Center, these classes cover everything from resume building, learning Word, looking for housing, job searching, and connecting with family on social media.

“We want to expose people to a variety of activities and classes to enrich their lives but also, to build relationships founded on trust and respect. This enables us to engage clients in meaningful housing case management,” Newman says.

Between the additional meals, the new computer lab, classes, and other events, the Lazarus is now strained when it comes to physical space — but Newman says that they’re devoted to continuing to help more and more people regardless.

In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.