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

Somali
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.”

Mayors support FCC proposal on broadband access for lower-income families

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has joined mayors and city officials from across the country to support the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to improve Internet access for low-income families through the federal Lifeline program.

“Lifeline modernization will benefit our community members and help us tackle the pressing but rewarding challenges of local governance,” the 44 mayors wrote to the FCC. “Getting more low-income households online will help modernize delivery of public services. Most importantly, Lifeline modernization will help our school children and give them better opportunities to succeed.”

The letter was coordinated by Next Century Cities, a nonprofit membership organization of mayors and other elected city leaders working to ensure fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access for all of their residents.

“Since its inception, the Lifeline program has helped millions of American families have access to critical telecommunications services,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “These 44 Next Century Cities mayors and city leaders hope to bring the Lifeline program into the 21st century by including the essential broadband infrastructure that so many of their residents rely on today.”

In the letter, city leaders encouraged the FCC to ratify the proposal to modernize the Lifeline program, stressing the need to put broadband in reach for low-income families in order to enhance education, civic engagement, and economic opportunity. The mayors’ letter also specified principles they support in a Lifeline proposal, including a portable benefit that promotes competition and a budget-neutral approach to Lifeline modernization.

Seattle approves revised cable franchise agreement with Comcast

Today the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to approve the renewal of Comcast’s cable-television franchise agreement. The 10-year agreement between Comcast and the City of Seattle includes significant benefits intended to improve Internet access in Seattle.

“The approval of this revised and improved franchise agreement reflects my administration’s commitment to digital equity, with more residents gaining access to discounted Internet service and resources to further close the digital divide,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We are a city known for our technology and innovation, yet even in our connected city, digital opportunity is lacking for far too many. The benefits included in this agreement will have a meaningful impact on digital equity in Seattle, helping new populations gain access to the Internet and learn the skills necessary to be part of our digital society.”

The vote follows efforts by Mayor Murray and City Councilmember Bruce Harrell to get Comcast to increase its commitment to digital equity in Seattle, and ensure that any benefit commitments by Comcast were made in a legally enforceable manner.

“We demand the best customer service for our residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “We focused on expanding low-income discounts and ensuring all residents get the best service.”

“In addition to providing cable television service to Seattle residents, the revised agreement includes many important community benefits, including discounted Internet service to low-income seniors, a $500,000 digital equity grant, and a partnership to provide devices such as laptop computers for housing-insecure youth,” said Michael Mattmiller, the City’s Chief Technology Officer.

The 10-year agreement between Comcast and the City of Seattle includes significant benefits intended to improve digital equity and access to information in Seattle. Benefits of the agreement include:

  • 600 free cable modem Internet connections to non-profit organizations serving Seattle residents, valued at approximately $10 million. These connections help increase digital equity by increasing the number of sites where the public can access the Internet.
  • Approximately $8 million to support public, education, and government television cable channels, including the Emmy Award-winning Seattle Channel.
  • Free cable television service to government and school facilities, valued at more than $2 million.
  • Discounted basic cable television service for low-income households.
  • Discounted Internet access through the Comcast Internet Essentials program for low-income seniors and households with a child enrolled in the free or reduced price school lunch program.
  • $500,000 in funding to support the City’s digital equity initiatives, with grants of $100,000 per year for five years.
  • A new partnership between the City and Comcast through which housing-insecure youth will be able to obtain devices, such as laptop computers, for accessing the Internet.

Nourisha Wells, the outgoing chair of the City of Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB) noted the revised Comcast agreement is a step forward for the community. “Seattle is such a technologically advanced city it is easy to overlook the digital disparities in certain communities. This new Comcast agreement places our commitment to digital equity front and center and increases the ability of our seniors, youth, and low-income residents to benefit from, and help drive technical innovations for years to come.”

The approved Comcast franchise agreement will take effect on Jan. 21, 2016 and last a decade.

City to take up new, revised franchise agreement with Comcast

The City of Seattle has reached a tentative agreement with Comcast to renew the company’s non-exclusive franchise, which allows the company to provide cable television service to Seattle households. The revised agreement follows a letter Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell sent to Comcast asking for additional digital equity commitments for Seattle in light of Comcast’s recently announced agreement with the City of Philadelphia.

“Digital equity is central to my administration and I remain committed to ensuring that all residents have the resources to access essential services and opportunities,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Today’s revised agreement reflects our efforts to get a better deal from Comcast. After extensive conversations over the weekend, Comcast agreed to do more for the residents of Seattle, including seniors, low-income residents, and housing-insecure youth.”

“At the end of the day, this is an unprecedented community benefits package for Seattle,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “We fought hard to the very end to increase benefits for our seniors, youth, low-income households, and all of our residents.”

The proposed 10-year agreement between Comcast and the City of Seattle includes significant benefits intended to improve digital equity and access to information in Seattle. Benefits of the agreement include:

  • 600 free cable modem Internet connections to non-profit organizations serving Seattle residents, valued at approximately $10 million. These connections help increase digital equity by increasing the number of sites where the public can access the Internet.
  • Approximately $8 million to support public, education, and government television cable channels, including the Emmy award-winning Seattle Channel.
  • Free cable television service to government and school facilities, valued at more than $2 million.
  • Discounted basic cable television service for low-income households.

“The Denny Terrace Computer Lab exists to provide free computer and Internet access to the residents of Seattle Housing Authority’s Denny Terrace Building,” said Mike Pollack of Full Life Care.  “The lab has no funding and is completely volunteer managed. The lab would be unable to operate without this free service from the City of Seattle and Comcast.”

In response to Mayor Murray and Councilmember Harrell’s letter, Comcast has tentatively agreed to provide additional benefits that increase digital equity and lower the cost of Internet access.

  • Seattle will join Comcast’s pilot program where low-income seniors are eligible for the Internet Essentials discounted Internet program.
  • Comcast will increase its previously announced digital equity grant offered to Seattle from $50,000 to $500,000 (with grants of $100,000 per year for five years).
  • Comcast will partner with the City to help housing-insecure youth obtain devices, such as laptop computers, for accessing the Internet.

When considering differences in population size and the different durations of the agreements, these benefits bring the City’s agreement closer to Philadelphia’s while providing Seattle with greater flexibility in how to best increase digital equity. For example, the City may use the digital equity grant and possibly franchise fees to assist more eligible households in navigating and enrolling in discount programs from Comcast and others, expand access through increased Wi-Fi availability, or provide direct subsidies to a limited number of low-income individuals.

The City of Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB) advised the City during the Comcast franchise renewal process and advocated for the additional benefits, including discounted Internet access for low-income seniors.

“I am thrilled to know we have leaders willing and ready to fight for digital equity in our city. CTAB heard from Seattle residents that providing affordable access for seniors and youth is a priority,” said Amy Hirotaka, chair of CTAB. “With this new Comcast franchise agreement, we can tell our community that we heard them, fought for them, and delivered. CTAB and the Broadband committee should be proud of the work done throughout this process.”

Pending today’s vote by the City Council, the renewed Comcast franchise will take effect in January 2016.

National Award for Technology Matching Fund Grants

digitalinclustion2Seattle’s Community Technology Program has been honored by The National League of Cities, Next Century Cities, and Google Fiber with one of their inaugural Digital Inclusion Leadership awards.

The award recognizes the City’s Technology Matching Fund grant program as a leading best practice in fostering digital inclusion. Winners were chosen on the basis of a program’s ability to provide training, access, and hardware to a diverse range of participants, at low cost, with proven results and community engagement. The awards were established to celebrate the cities that are leading programs or empowering community-based organizations to tackle barriers to Internet adoption, and to encourage leaders in the public sector to get involved in digital inclusion by sharing best practices.

Over the past 18 years, the Technology Matching Fund program has enabled 153 community organizations to build their capacity to provide technology and internet access, digital skills training, and electronic civic engagement. The majority of City funding for the program has been allocated from cable franchise fees, and has reinvested over $3.9 million in community based projects. The City’s 2015 Technology Matching Fund projects, selected in July 2015, will collectively receive $470,000, enabling increased digital equity for more than 14,900 residents. Fund recipients are recommended by the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board and approved by the Mayor and City Council. The program has served as a model for other cities.

“This program is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure all Seattle residents can participate in our increasingly digital society,” said Michael Mattmiller, City of Seattle Chief Technology Officer. “This award is the result of strong commitment and partnerships for digital equity between our community organizations, Mayor Ed Murray, City Council, Community Technology Advisory Board, Department of Information Technology and the many volunteers and supporters working to help bring digital inclusion to all residents.”

The award was presented to the City of Seattle’s Department of Information Technology’s Community Technology Program on Thursday, November 5, at the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities event in Nashville, Tennessee.

For more information on the Technology Matching Fund and the Community Technology Program in the Department of Information Technology, visit http://www.seattle.gov/tech/TMF.

City receives national Digital Inclusion Best Practices Award

The National League of Cities, Next Century Cities, and Google Fiber awarded the City of Seattle one of their inaugural Digital Inclusion Leadership awards.  The award was presented to the City of Seattle’s Department of Information Technology’s Community Technology Program on Thursday, November 5th, at the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities event in Nashville, Tennessee.

The award specifically recognizes the City’s Technology Matching Fund grant program as a leading best practice in fostering digital inclusion. Winners were chosen on the basis of a program’s ability to provide training, access, and hardware to a diverse range of participants, at low cost, with proven results and community engagement. The awards were established to celebrate the cities that are leading programs or empowering community-based organizations to tackle barriers to Internet adoption, and to encourage leaders in the public sector to get involved in digital inclusion by sharing best practices.

Over the past 18 years, the Technology Matching Fund program has enabled 153 community organizations to build their capacity to provide technology and internet access, digital skills training, and electronic civic engagement. The majority of City funding for the program has been allocated from cable franchise fees, and has reinvested over $3.9 million in community based projects. The City’s 2015 Technology Matching Fund projects, selected in July 2015, will collectively receive $470,000, enabling increased digital equity for more than 14,900 residents. Fund recipients are recommended by the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board and approved by the Mayor and City Council. The program has served as a model for other cities.

“This program is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure all Seattle residents can participate in our increasingly digital society,” said Michael Mattmiller, City of Seattle Chief Technology Officer. “This award is the result of strong commitment and partnerships for digital equity between our community organizations, Mayor Ed Murray, City Council, Community Technology Advisory Board, Department of Information Technology and the many volunteers and supporters working to help bring digital inclusion to all residents.”

For more information on the Technology Matching Fund and the Community Technology Program in the Department of Information Technology, visit  http://www.seattle.gov/tech/TMF.

Video Voters’ Guide for the General Election Launches

The Seattle Channel's non-partisan video voter's guide.

The Seattle Channel’s non-partisan video voter’s guide.

We told you about the Seattle and King County Video Voters’ Guide for the primary election last July. Now we’re approaching the general election.

– Want a transparent look at the candidates and issues on the Nov. 3 general-election ballot? With the launch of the 2015 general-election Video Voters’ Guide, voters can hear directly from the candidates for various offices as well as learn about city of Seattle and King County ballot measures.

The non-partisan video guide offers candidates on the ballot up to two minutes to issue a prepared statement that outlines the key planks of their platform. Proponents and opponents of ballot measures also issue short statements. The segments are unedited and published online and broadcast on local television. In all, the guide features 42 video statements, which are captioned for increased accessibility.

The Video Voters’ Guide is available on Seattle Channel’s website at www.seattlechannel.org/elections. For easy reference, the video statements are organized by race and ballot measure. City and county versions of the Video Voters’ Guide are also airing on Seattle Channel cable channel 21 and King County TV cable channel 22.

“The Video Voters’ Guide is a unique and valuable public resource. It allows voters to hear directly from the candidates and weigh statements on ballot measures,” said John Giamberso, Seattle Channel’s general manager. “Working with our partners, we’re pleased to provide this comprehensive guide which offers another vantage point for voters. The guide brings to life the candidates and the issues in a convenient format.”

The Video Voters’ Guide features candidates who will appear on the ballot for Seattle City Council and Seattle School Board. New this year, seven City Council members will be elected by district, with two others elected citywide. The guide also features candidates for seats on the Port of Seattle Commission, Metropolitan King County Council, director of the King County Department of Elections and King County Assessor.

The guide also features pro and con statements for several city and county ballot measures: the city’s Proposition 1 property-tax request, known as the Move Seattle transportation levy; Initiative 122, which would make changes to the way city elections are funded; a county levy to fund early-childhood programs, known as the Best Start for Kids levy; and King County Charter Amendment No. 1, which would strengthen the role of the county’s civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight.

Primary ballots must be postmarked or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The Video Voters’ Guide is a project of Seattle Channel, Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission and King County TV.

Seattle Channel is a local TV station that reflects, informs and inspires the community it serves. Seattle Channel presents programs on cable television – channel 21 on Comcast (321 HD) and Wave (721 HD) – and via the Internet to help residents connect with their city. Programming includes series and special features highlighting the diverse civic and cultural landscape of the Pacific Northwest’s premier city.

Seattle Is Rolling Out Its Innovative Privacy Program

The City of Seattle continues to lead the nation in protecting citizens’ privacy.  Last fall, the Mayor and City Council launched the City’s new Privacy Initiative.  In February 2015, Seattle’s Privacy Principle’s were announced.

privacytoolkitThe next phase, the toolkit for Seattle’s Privacy Initiative, is now being implemented.  The toolkit will guide City departments on how to incorporate these principles into daily operations.

“Seattle is leading the nation to implement a comprehensive privacy program across all City departments,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “Our privacy principles are designed to protect individual privacy while still providing government transparency.”

The Privacy Toolkit will provide guidelines for how each department will implement a privacy assessment. Departments will also identify a privacy champion who will work with a privacy manager at the Department of Information Technology.

“This is a game changer in how we operate and do business to ensure we uphold the highest standard for your privacy,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee. “We have come up with the right balance of transparency, accountability and flexibility.”

The privacy principles and the toolkit were created by an interdepartmental team comprised of more than 10 departments and an external Privacy Advisory Committee comprised of community members and privacy experts from private industry, law firms, privacy advocates and academia. The mayor’s budget for 2016 includes funding for a Chief Privacy Officer for the City who will be charged with implementing the principles.

“This is the first time any city in the country has taken steps to protect the public’s private information whenever possible,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “This groundbreaking toolkit will help city employees think proactively about potential privacy implications with regards to any data or personal information we collect in the course of regular City business or when evaluating a new policy or program,”

In November 2014, the City launched its Privacy Initiative, led by the Seattle Police Department and Department of Information Technology. The initiative defined how the City collects, uses, and disposes of data in a manner that balances the needs of the City to conduct its business with individual privacy. For more information on the City’s Privacy Initiative, visit http://www.seattle.gov/information-technology/initiatives/privacy-initiative

Seattle is one of the first cities in the nation to establish its own privacy principles to protect personal information. City partners and vendors are instructed to follow the same guidelines.