Report looks at how Seattleites use technology and barriers

Did you know Seattle residents now have more laptops than desktop computers? Or that those with less education tend to make less use of the Internet?

The City of Seattle has just released new findings on technology access, adoption, social media use and civic participation by Seattle residents. These are available at seattle.gov/tech/indicators with key findings available in multiple languages.
A video presentation and discussion is also available to view.

“This data shows that we’re making great strides in technology, but a digital gap still exists between our neighbors,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We’re already using the data in this report to influence how the City of Seattle interacts with our neighbors and to better target our outreach and engagement strategies.”

The findings are based on feedback from 2,600 residents via online and phone surveys and in-person focus groups with immigrant, disabled and African American communities, to ensure the City heard from those who are often under-represented in surveys or are historically technologically-underserved.
The continued rise of smart phone and tablet use provides outstanding opportunities for government to reach more residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “The information from the focus groups will help us improve services and how we reach all communities. We will take action on improving access to web services by making them available in multiple languages.”

Since 2000, the City’s Community Technology Program has conducted community research to find out how Seattle residents are using technology, and barriers to use. The results of this research are used by the City in a variety of ways, including to guide our Technology Matching Fund awards, cable franchising, and public information and engagement efforts by a wide range of City departments. It also provides data that non-profits and schools can use in grant proposals and to strategic planning.
Here are a few of the findings:

• 85 percent of Seattle residents have Internet at home, leaving about 93,000 Seattle residents without home Internet.
• 58 percent of Seattle residents now own smart phones, up from 35 percent in 2009.
• Education and age are the most significant factors differentiating technology access and adoption, but the data also shows important differences based on the income, ethnicity, and abilities of those surveyed.
• Broadband and cable TV prices continue to be of concern, but increasing broadband speed is important to those surveyed, with high interest in using higher bandwidth applications.
• The study finds that there is still a significant gap in access to Internet and the skills to use it, though the digital equity gap is more focused in skills and uses of the Internet than on basic access.

See much more on the Technology Access and Adoption Report page.

El Centro De La Raza helps seniors and youth get online

With support from the Tech Matching Fund, El Centro de la Raza has expanded Wi-Fi access in its building on Beacon Hill.   By strategically placing nine routers at key locations throughout the building, they now have seamless Wi-Fi coverage throughout the facility.

This has particularly benefited the 125 seniors who come to El Centro for the Senior Wellness Program.   Many of these seniors are isolated due to age, mobility issues and language and cultural barriers.   El Centro provides hands-on training to the seniors, who are often intimidated by new technologies and computers in general.  Volunteers use Century Link Internet Basics curriculum to teach Windows basics, web browsing and using the Internet safely, accessing information online, sending and receiving e-mail, and using social media including Facebook.  The seniors now have an affordable option to browse the Internet and communicate with friends and family in Latin America and Asia.

The wireless access has also supported the Comcast Digital Connectors Program for 18 youth ages 14-21, for two hours, twice a week.  These workshops are on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:30-6:30 PM and support high school age youth to improve their digital literacy and close the digital divide for low-income youth of color.

For more information on the project contact Miguel Maestes at associate@elcentrodelaraza.org, (206) 957-4650.

826 Seattle gets a technology boost

826 Seattle student during after school time

826 Seattle is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to empowering young people—particularly disadvantaged youth who risk academic failure due to socioeconomic or language barriers—with the confidence and skills to communicate their personal stories through writing.  Their services are structured around the belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that proficiency in writing helps children become more engaged in school and ultimately grow into successful adults.

With a $14,326 grant from the Technology Matching Fund last year, 826 Seattle gave their computer lab a much needed makeover.   They brought in four new iMacs, five laptops,  an iPad and a digital microphone.   Volunteers did everything necessary to get the lab up to speed, including wiping the old computers clean and recycling them.

The new technology suite benefits the students in many ways.  More than 1,000 students came to the center during the first six months of the project to participate in innovative writing workshops on topics ranging from “Snarky and Hallmark-y: Writing Your Own Greeting Cards” to “Before Texting: The Power of Historical Letters.”

More than 150 students also used the computer lab for homework completion.  Technological access is an integral part of students’ daily homework routine, whether it is checking a school website for assignments and grades, doing internet-based research for school projects, or completing mandatory online daily math practice drills.  First grader Nehemiah (pictured above)  listened to jazz and studied jazz history.

If you look for the center in the Greenwood neighborhood, you won’t find a traditional tutoring center sign on the front door.  It’s discreetly tucked away behind the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company,  a retail store that sells space-themed novelties and toys.

For more information on the project, contact Peggy Jackson.

 

Lake City computer lab expands its reach

Participant at the Lake City Computer Lab

The North Seattle Family Center, a program of  Children’s Home Society of Washington, successfully completed a yearlong Technology Matching Fund grant to expand the computer lab at Seattle Housing Authority’s Lake City Court Apartments. The $18,000 in project funds helped 228 low-income and vulnerable residents in North Seattle gain technology access and skills.

Serving a greater diversity  

The project added adaptive equipment to the computer lab, which increased access for individuals with disabilities. Staff also configured the computers to support language capabilities for 35 different languages, including those most commonly found in North Seattle. Participants acquired English language skills through the use of software and internet-based education resources, improving their communication skills in the workplace, the home and in the community. In addition, many  participants received employment readiness training, providing them with technology skills relevant to today’s workplace and increasing their employment opportunities. They also added youth services and open lab time.

Collaboration was key to strong programs

According to Program Manager Ann Fuller, “Collaborating with partnering programs has been key to our lab.” Over the course of the project they worked with Seattle Housing Authority, Seattle Public Library, the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens, the Literacy Council of Seattle, the City of Seattle’s Health Access program, Techno-Formation Vocational Services (an organization focused on Somali women, youth, and elders), and the University of Washington. Bringing youth and adults together led to development of projects connected with activities in the lab, including working with the North District Council to add a basketball pick-up court and developing a pea patch plot for families using the lab.

Success providing access to services and building community connections   

The project’s greatest success was in providing computer and internet access to people who cannot afford or don’t know how to use these services. “So many things are based on computer knowledge and internet access, that children and families are being left behind and missing out on opportunities in business, schools and healthcare,” said Fuller. “We work with people who do not know those services are available, or don’t have the skills to use them.”

Another key outcome was building trust with members of the community. The staff at the lab helped build a trusting relationship by teaching computer use step-by-step and troubleshooting problems. Staff often referred individuals to the center’s family advocacy services for more assistance. Providing Seattle Housing Authority youth with a safe, fun, educational place to be has been another very positive outcome. Youth now come for assistance with not only homework, but also when other challenges face them at home and at school.

For more information on the project contact Ann Fuller at annf@chs-wa.org, or call North Seattle Family Center at 206-364-7930.