Hacking for Oceans and Fish — Seattle IT Dives Deep at Fishackathon

All Earth Day weekend long, April 22-24, teams of Seattle technologists joined together at Impact Hub Seattle to explore how we can use data and technology to protect our fish and oceans. “Seattle is defined both by technological innovation and commitment to environmental sustainability,” said Candace Faber, City of Seattle’s Civic Technology Advocate. “What better way to celebrate Earth Day than for both sides of that community to tackle the overfishing challenge together?”

Photo of Fishackathon Participants

Seattle Fishacking Teams 2016

A global event, Fishackathon was coordinated by the U.S. Department of State and held simultaneously in 41 different sites on six continents. Its goal was to find solutions to world fisheries and ocean issues, anchored in 9 narrowly scoped challenges submitted by global experts. In Seattle, the event was organized by Microsoft, Vulcan Inc., the University of Washington, and Open Seattle, with support from Seattle IT. Civic Technology Advocate Candace Faber and Open Data Manager Bruce Blood both supported the event.

Photo of fish hackers at work

Fishackers at work

Hackers had access to multiple public, global databases that track things such as vessel identification, as well as expert mentors from the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Vulcan’s Illegal Fishing programs, among others. World-leading expert Ray Hilborn gave the keynote, and local celebrity chef Ethan Stowell personally served fresh, sustainably caught seafood on the first night.

Photo of happy fish hackers

Fishackers Tackle Overfishing

Seattle’s teams created apps and prototypes aligned with several of the challenges. The most popular were fish identification and monitoring lost fishing gear. One team also took on a challenge not listed, visualizing GIS data from a boat’s point of view rather than a bird’s-eye. King Triton, Seattle’s winning team, developed a solution that uses fishing vessel data to catch those breaking international and other laws governing the fishing industry.

The team’s proposal will be submitted to the U.S. State Department’s global competition and the winner will be announced on World Ocean’s Day, June 8, 2016. The winning team will receive a $10,000 cash prize, and their solution will be funded by a third party developer funded by the State Department.  Good luck King Triton!

Photo of Teams receiving awards

Candace Faber, City of Seattle’s Civic Tech Advocate, Lures Hackers with Prizes

Many thanks to Microsoft for spearheading this event in Seattle, sponsors Microsoft and Vulcan Inc. for their generous financial support, to all the mentors, and also to Smart Catch restaurants, the Living Computer Museum, and the Seattle Aquarium for their prizes.

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

Picture of David Keyes

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.

CenturyLink Announces Prism TV Price Increase

CenturyLink announced that the price of Prism TV video service will increase by $7.00, effective with March 18, 2016 billings. Except for customers who are on a ‘Price Lock’ agreement, the increase will effect all service packages and promotional offers. With the price increase CenturyLink’s new standard service rates will be:

Prism TV Package New Pricing
Basic $29.99
Essential $81.99
Complete $96.99
Preferred $111.99
Premium $141.99

The price of CenturyLink’s High Speed Internet modem will also be increased by $1.00.

If you are currently a CenturyLink Prism TV customer receiving a promotional discount on your service, but didn’t not sign up for ‘Price Lock’ when you subscribed, then your monthly service rate will increase by $7.00. You will also continue to receive the discount applied to the new rate for the remainder of your promotional period. Your rate and any discount should be clearly indicated on your billing statement.

CenturyLink has sent customers a notice alerting them to these upcoming price increases. If you have questions on how this increase will impact your individual bill, contact CenturyLink Customer Care at (866) 755-7435.

If you are a low income CenturyLink customer and would like information on whether you are eligible for CenturyLink’s service discount programs, call (877) 837-5738 or visit CenturyLink Low Income Assistance Programs.


Apply now for Technology Matching Funds

The City of Seattle is now accepting applications for the Technology Matching Fund. Grants of up to $50,000 are available. The deadline is Wednesday, May 4, at 5:00 p.m.

The Technology Matching Fund provides funds for digital equity projects.   The goals of the fund are to increase access to free or low-cost broadband, empower residents with digital literacy skills, and ensure affordable, available and sufficient devices and technical support.

This year the fund seeks to support creative and collaborative approaches.  Priority will be given to projects that strengthen community partnerships, leverage existing expertise, and engage historically underserved or underrepresented communities.

More information is available here, or contact Delia Burke at (206) 233-2651 or communitytechnology@seattle.gov.

2016 Technology Matching Fund

The City of Seattle is now accepting applications for collaborative technology projects up to $50,000. City dollars are matched by the community’s contribution of volunteer labor, materials, professional services, or cash.  Get the 2016 guidelines and apply here: http://seattle.gov/tech/tmf.

The Technology Matching Fund provides funds for digital equity projects. The goals of the fund are to:

  • Increase access to free or low-cost broadband;
  • Empower residents with digital literacy skills; and
  • Ensure affordable, available and sufficient devices and technical support.

Deadline: May 4 at 5:00 p.m. 

City of Seattle launches Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan


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.

White House recognizes Seattle as a TechHire community


Today Seattle was recognized as a TechHire community as part of the White House’s national jobs initiative. This program for underemployed adults convenes employers, educators and workforce partners to provide accelerated training, internship and employment opportunities in the technology sector.  Seattle’s commitment has an explicit focus on historically under-represented communities: women and people of color.

“With the TechHire initiative, more Seattle residents will fully participate in this growth industry with access to pathways leading to life-changing, meaningful careers,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We will leverage this program and the White House’s support to launch new local initiatives, extend the impact of our Summer Youth Employment Program, and accelerate the incredible work of community partners.”

TechHire is a multi-sector White House initiative and call to action to empower Americans with the skills they need through universities and community colleges, as well as nontraditional approaches like “coding boot camps” and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a good-paying job. Employers across the United States are in critical need of talent with these skills.

With partnership from local tech employers EnergySavvy, Skytap, Substantial and Moz, as well as stakeholders including Seattle Colleges, LaunchCode, the Workforce Development Council of King County, the City of Seattle will train over 350 people this year, and place at least 2,000 in tech jobs by 2020.

Seattle is experiencing unprecedented growth, with over 63,000 new jobs created in the last five years, primarily driven by a booming technology sector. The city has also been recognized as one of the fastest growing startup ecosystems in the nation.  All of this growth brings opportunity; in the last 30 days, Seattle businesses have posted 1,800 job openings for software developers alone.

Through its Office of Economic Development, the City of Seattle will work to ensure educational curriculum is aligned with real-time job openings, collecting and analyzing job data by partnering with Linkedin and Burning Glass Labor Insight. Employer engagement is critical to success for this initiative, and industry leaders Amazon, Boeing, Expedia and Microsoft have pledged their support.

In addition to training providers such as the WTIA Workforce Institute, Galvanize and Code Fellows, Seattle’s TechHire initiative will also work to increase diversity and inclusion in the technology sector. Training providers include: Ada Developers Academy, a software development training for women; Unloop, training for people who have been in prison to succeed in careers in tech; and Floodgate Academy, a developer operations training focused on underrepresented communities will focus on this work.

Shadae Holmes is a local graduate of Ada Developers Academy, a tuition-free programming school for women.

“I am a woman, I am a software developer, I am black and I am a mentor to others like me,” said Holmes. “However, the current system is not set up for me.  Like many others in high school and college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  Through a fluke, I found the Ada Developers Academy. I was soon placed at an internship at Foundry Interactive, a small tech consulting company, which boasts a 50/50 male-to-female ratio.  Not only are they committed to diversity with their deeds—they are thriving. I’m happy to report I have been working full time at Foundry for over two years, gaining experience and finding my own voice.”

EnergySavvy is a Seattle technology company that launched in 2008 with a commitment to improving energy efficiency through software. The firm has been a sponsor of Ada Developers Academy since its inception.

“We’ve had fantastic results with Ada as a talent source — we’ve hired 3 graduates full-time, have a 4th completing her internship soon and a 5th beginning her internship in April,” said Scott Case, Chief Operating Officer of EnergySavvy and Board Chair of Ada. “EnergySavvy’s software engineering organization is now 30 percent female — that’s three times the national average. The biggest limiter for our continued success as a company is the ability to attract great tech talent. Ada has allowed us to do that while increasing the diversity of our workforce, making our company better and more productive overall. We’re thrilled that the City of Seattle is now part of this broader national effort. It gives us a chance to ramp up the scale of what is already working really well.”

Mayor Murray signs historic Open Data Executive Order

EO signing

Mayor Ed Murray today renewed the City of Seattle’s commitment to transparency by signing an Executive Order directing all City departments to comply with a new open data policy, which he announced during last week’s State of the City address.

“Seattle is one of the most innovative and creative cities in the country– by opening up key City datasets to the public, we make it possible for problem solvers outside of government to get involved in finding solutions to civic challenges,” said Mayor Murray. “This Executive Order encourages more transparency between the City and outside partners, and ensures we develop tools that provide critical insights for the public on what’s happening in our city.”

The policy directs all City data to be “open by preference” – meaning City departments will always make their data as accessible as possible to the public, after screening for privacy, security, and quality considerations. This policy is the result of a collaboration between the City of Seattle, the University of Washington, and the Sunlight Foundation through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ national What Works Cities initiative.

Stephen Larrick, Open Data Project Lead at the Sunlight Foundation, which participated in initial drafting through the City’s engagement with What Works Cities, credits Seattle’s effort for a broader shift in thinking about how governments can balance open data and privacy concerns. He said, “Sunlight has long advocated for an ‘open by default’ approach to government information, but with the subtle change to ‘open by preference’–and with the nuanced policy approach to balancing transparency against privacy that language implies–the City of Seattle is proposing a new model for open data policy in a post-Snowden world.”

The University of Washington conducted a thorough review of the policy as part of its partnership with the City of Seattle under the national MetroLab Network. Jan Whittington of the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab said of the partnership, “We could not have asked for a more dedicated partner than the City of Seattle as we researched the hopes, concerns, and policy solutions to the problems that arise from municipal open data. With this policy, the City of Seattle is navigating the countervailing forces of transparency, privacy, and security, creating a path that promises to define the responsible release of municipal open data.”

Bill Howe, Associate Director of the eScience Intsitute and Senior Data Science Fellow at the University of Washington’s eScience Institute, added, “The City’s leadership in instituting this transformative new policy — one that balances the need for open data with the critical sensitivities around privacy, security, and quality — will serve as a model for other cities nationwide. In the context of the MetroLab Network, the UW eScience Institute is thrilled to support an emerging portfolio of urban data science projects that are directly enabled by this policy.”

Since the launch of the City’s open data program in 2010, more than 400 datasets have been made open, including several that are used by private companies, journalists, and community members. Open data also powers tools hosted on the City’s website such as Open Budget, Performance Seattle, the Police Department’s Neighborhood Crime Map, and the Department of Transportation’s Capital Projects Explorer.

In recent years, the City has expanded its Open Data Program to encourage more partnerships with the public, including initiatives such as 2015’s Hack the Commute, through which more than 140 developers and community advocates prototyped 14 new data-driven technology solutions for improving transportation in Seattle.

In 2016, the Open Data Program, which is managed by the Department of Information Technology, will focus on training employees of other departments and establishing processes that make it easier to release more data to the public. The program has set a goal of having 544 datasets available to the public by the end of 2016.

The new policy can be viewed online at http://www.seattle.gov/opendata. Existing datasets and other information about the Open Data Program are on the City’s open data portal, https://data.seattle.gov/.

City launches new Seattle.gov

Seattle.gov website

The City of Seattle recently launched its redesigned website, http://www.seattle.gov/, to better connect the public with their government.

“Seattle.gov should reflect the City’s vibrant and innovative spirit,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Thanks to the hard work of our Department of Information Technology’s Citywide Web team, the updated site makes it easier for the public and businesses to access services, find information, and participate in critical conversations with City government.”

The new website is based on a mobile-friendly design approach and a desire to help visitors find information easily. The new website strives to be user-centric, organizing content primarily by City services instead of City departments.

“The new Seattle.gov makes it easier to access city information any time, especially from the mobile devices increasingly used to request city services,” said Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller. “Using modern tools and technology to connect the public with their government is critical to the civic health of Seattle and we look forward to evolving the new website, adding content and new features that increase user engagement on a regular basis.”

City staff is designing and building the new Seattle.gov over a three-year period, with all City pages updated in phased releases. The initial launch release includes the following:

The design of the entire City website will be completed in 2018.

SCSS upgrades lab with Tech Matching Fund

Kudos to 23 community organizations who successfully completed Technology Matching Fund projects in 2015.  These projects achieved greater digital inclusion for over 4,100 residents in Seattle left behind by the digital divide.

One grantee, Somali Community Services of Seattle (SCSS), received a $9,000 award to upgrade their aging computer lab.   Computers almost a decade old made way for eleven new desktop computers.  The lab has since been used weekly to teach more than 215 youth, adults and seniors a variety of technology skills.  Classes are typically held twice a week for one hour by instructors versed in office computer skills.

Senior immigrants have especially benefited from these classes, because many had not been exposed to computers prior to arriving in the United States. The skills they learned in computer classes helped them write emails and letters to families and friends abroad. Some seniors even expressed a desire to teach these skills to youth as they learn and grow.   Somali businessmen and businesswomen also used the lab for crucial business tasks like creating budgets and flyers.

Executive Director Sahra Farah emphasized the value of City support for community-based organizations like hers.  “These funds help us fulfill our mission of assisting Somali refugee families and community members to achieve self-sustainable status in the communities they live in.  Because computer skills are such vital skills to have in the 21st century, these resources are irreplaceable in helping Somali community members stay relevant, and productive.”