Empowering immigrants and refugees through computer literacy

Coalition for Refugees from Burma

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.

 

Let It Snow! Hackathon, December 15

let-it-snow

Today marks the first official snow of the season! As part of our preparation at the City, we are reviewing the technology tools and data we use to communicate with the public about how we’re responding to winter weather emergencies – and we want your input.

We are looking for people with all tech abilities and levels of access to technology to participate in a facilitated hackathon on December 15th at the offices of Substantial on Capitol Hill. For more information and to RSVP, please visit seattlesnow.eventbrite.com.

Center for Digital Government Names Seattle Digital Cities Survey Winner

Brianna Thomas, Legislative Assistant to Lorena Gonzales, accepting Seattle's 2016 Digital Cities Award

Brianna Thomas, Legislative Assistant to Council Member Lorena Gonzales, accepting Seattle’s 2016 Digital Cities Award

Seattle Information Technology (Seattle IT) was recognized for its recent consolidation. The new department is made up of 650 staff members that once worked across 15 city agencies and aims to create efficiencies and capacity for tech projects.

Other accomplishments include: the launch of a mobile-responsive website, a customer relationship management system to improve communications with residents and a data analytics platform for the police department. Efforts to work with the city’s tech community include the hiring of a civic technology advocate to engage with those individuals, a Hack the Commute program that developed prototype apps to help solve transportation issues, and a partnership with Code for America on the development of a crisis intervention app to connect people in need with social services.

In addition, an in-house innovation team is working on data-driven solutions to challenges in Seattle. While an open data program has been in place since 2010, the city’s “open by preference” policy was signed in February and calls on department heads to name “open data champions” to spearhead the release of information.  And for monitoring IT performance, Seattle developed TechStat, which is modeled off programs like the New York City Police Department’s CompStat, to facilitate internal transparency and monitor metrics for operations and projects.

Do you have an opinion on Wave Broadband services?

waveWe’d like to hear from you!

Wave Broadband’s cable franchise to operate in the City of Seattle expires November 2017.

As part of the franchise renewal process, the City is gathering input from community members on future cable-related interests and needs.

If you’re a Wave Broadband customer, we’d like to hear from you:

In-person

June 29, 2016, Wednesday, 7-8:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave S, 98108

July 20, 2016, Wednesday, 6:15-7:45 p.m. at the Douglass Truth Library, 2300 E Yesler Way, 98122

  • Co-Sponsored with the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board

On-line

Comment form: www.seattle.gov/tech/cable-renewal-response

Survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/CityOfSeattleWaveCableSurvey

Via email

cableoffice@seattle.gov

Over the phone

206.684.8498

Civic Tech News — What Works Cities Initiative in Seattle

https___img_evbuc_com_https%253A%252F%252Fcdn_evbuc_com%252Fimages%252F21095394%252F25356730269%252F1%252ForiginalSince 2015, the City of Seattle has been working quietly on a number of programs to make our government more data-driven, results-oriented, and innovative. We passed a new open data policy that balances transparency and privacy. We are shifting to a new model for performance management, both within the City and with our contractors. We are using design thinking to explore new approaches to big issues such as youth unemployment and homelessness, with a 5-person team in Mayor Murray’s Office of Policy & Innovation dedicated to one project at a time. What has made such big changes possible in such a short period of time? The common thread is Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Inspired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s experiences using data and design thinking to improve that city, Bloomberg Philanthropies has created a number of initiatives that make it possible for other cities to explore what “works.” These include What Works Cities (hyperlink: http://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/about/), a national initiative for mid-sized cities to improve use of data and evidence in decision-making, and Innovation Teams (hyperlink:http://www.bloomberg.org/program/government-innovation/innovation-teams/). Under Mayor Murray’s leadership, our city is taking full advantage of both. Seattle is one of the pilot cities in What Works Cities and currently has an Innovation Team in its second year of operations.

What Works Cities Panel: Chrissie Grover-Roybal, Tina Walha, Tyler Running Deer and Candace Faber

What Works Cities Panel:
Chrissie Grover-Roybal, Tina Walha, Tyler Running Deer and Candace Faber

 

On May 26, Seattle IT hosted a panel discussion at the local Impact Hub to share the work these groups are doing with the broader public. The panel was moderated by Candace Faber, the City’s Civic Technology Advocate, and featured:

  • Tyler Running Deer, Seattle’s Organizational Performance Director, who has been leading the City of Seattle’s engagement under the What Works Cities program,
  • Chrissie Grover-Roybal, Innovation Fellow with the Government Performance Lab at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and
  • Tina Walha, Director of the Innovation Team in the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation.

 

Over 60 people attended May 26 Event at Impact Hub

Over 60 people attended May 26 Event at Impact Hub

The City of Seattle joined What Works Cities in August 2015 as one of eight cities in the first national cohort, setting goals for three projects: to research and establish a Citywide Open Data policy and program; to design and develop a Citywide, central organizational performance program; and to explore, analyze, and establish a pilot results-driven contracting practice to improve the outputs and outcomes of contracted services to the public.

 

The first two projects are complete from the What Works Cities perspective, having now been institutionalized in the City through dedicated full-time positions in Seattle IT and the Mayor’s Office as well as new roles for existing staff across departments. The performance team is working on a strategic framework and a toolkit to help city departments better use data and information to manage services and programs, anticipated to be complete by mid-2016. The third project, led here by Chrissie Grover-Roybal, is still in progress, and reorients the structure and management of homeless services contracts to focus on improving outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.

 

The Innovation Team spent its first year examining strategies to increase access to opportunity and decrease the impact of violence among Seattle’s young Black men, ages 14 to 24. This year, the team will be focused on addressing Seattle’s homelessness crisis. To learn more about the Innovation Team, check out http://murray.seattle.gov/innovationteam.

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.

Photo of Teams receiving awards

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

Thank you to the event sponsors and 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.