City of Seattle invests $320,000 to improve digital literacy, access to technology

Verizon Foundation contributes additional $25,000
to help bridge digital divide

The City of Seattle today announced the recipients of the 2020 Technology Matching Fund. With an investment of $345,000, 15 organizations will receive funding for community-led projects which aim to increase access to technology and provide digital skills training for underserved communities.

The grants range from $12,490 to $25,000, and organizations have pledged a total of $360,000 to match City dollars with at least 50 percent in cash or in-kind contributions of labor, professional services and donated hardware and software.

Youth participate in a Somali Family Safety Task Force program funded by the Technology Matching Fund.

“The dual crises of COVID-19 and systemic racism in our region and our country are bringing into sharp relief the continued need for meaningful, intentional investments in our low-income communities and communities of color. More and more, our communities are relying on access to the internet and digital literacy skills to engage with their communities and make their voices heard. More than ever, it is crucial that we are investing in digital equity for all our communities,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “In addition, important tasks like applying for assistance or jobs, accessing healthcare, participating in online learning, and communicating with our loved ones have all moved online. These investments will build digital literacy, further technology equity and create opportunity for our historically underserved communities, making for a more inclusive, just city.”

This year’s recipients include a program offering technical training for the Eritrean community, including helping youth access academic resources and seniors stay connected; a workforce development training bootcamp for STEM educators and youth leaders; a supportive housing provider establishing computer access for its formerly homeless residents; an organization offering mobile device literacy instruction for hundreds of low-income adults; an immersive filmmaking experience for youth; a program for young women to explore coding and STEM careers; and an organization that provides adaptive technology for children with disabilities.

Technology Matching Fund grants are distributed annually as part of the City’s broader Digital Equity Initiative and managed by the Seattle Information Technology Department (Seattle IT). Funded projects improve connectivity and provide devices and technology support to communities that might not otherwise have equitable access, including immigrants, refugees, homeless people, seniors, youth, and people with disabilities.

Literacy Source, a Technology Matching Fund recipient, helps the one in six adults in Washington state who are lacking the basic literacy or language skills necessary for self-sufficiency. 

“The current COVID-19 crisis has changed our ways of interacting and connecting, magnified disparities in our community and emphasized the need to bridge the digital divide,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, chair of the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes oversight of Seattle IT. “Improving access to and adoption of technology to achieve digital equity is a major commitment of mine, and I look forward to seeing how this and other investments will open pathways and improve access to education, job training and other vital services.”

The Technology Matching Fund was created in 1997 and has since awarded more than $5.7 million to organizations, funding more than 350 community technology projects. The grants are funded through the city’s cable franchise fees and contributions from community partners such as Facebook, which invested in matching fund projects in 2017 and 2018. This year, the Verizon Foundation contributed $25,000 to broaden the reach of the City’s $320,000 matching fund.

“At Verizon, our goal is to develop a hyper-local focus in our communities to further bridge the digital divide and have meaningful social impact. We are continually looking for ways to engage with Seattle communities to better meet their needs,” said Azmeena Hasham, executive director of community engagement at Verizon. “The City’s Technology Matching Fund is a tremendous resource for our local communities to expand access to digital technology solutions. It provides a robust framework to source and select the best ideas, while encouraging new ideas to take root. By partnering, these synergies allow us to more comprehensively serve the needs of our Seattle communities. We truly appreciate this opportunity to participate in the 2020 Technology Matching Fund.”

The Technology Matching Fund awards up to $25,000 to non-profit organizations in Seattle for digital-equity projects. The City of Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board recommended the funded projects from a competitive pool of 41 applicants, which submitted proposals prior to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Seattle IT staff will work with funded organizations that may need to offer their programs or services virtually or in a different format than originally planned and will adjust timelines and some requirements for requesting awarded grant funding.

While Seattle is a connected city, technology gaps persist. We are continuing to make strides so that all residents can benefit,” said Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer Saad Bashir. “Together, with a diverse group of community partners, we’re committed to closing the digital divide.”

Below is a list of the 2020 Technology Matching Fund recipients. Read more about the projects here.

  • 206 Zulu, Coolout Academy Digital Literacy Program
  • Boys & Girls Club of King County, Bringing Technology to Northgate Girls & Boys Club
  • Empowering Youth and Families Outreach, Computer Station Upgrade & Youth Laptop Provision
  • Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle, Digital Equity and Advancement Project
  • Filipino Community of Seattle, FCS Innovation Learning Project
  • First Place, The Diversity S.T.E.M. Training Program
  • Garinagu HounGua, Garifuna Technology Literacy
  • Literacy Source, Basic Digital Literacy in North Seattle
  • Low Income Housing Institute, Sand Point Cottage Community
  • PROVAIL, Adaptive Technology Lending Library
  • Seattle Goodwill Industries
  • Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Education Mobile Youth Workshops
  • Somali Family Safety Task Force, Somali Digital Access and Literacy
  • Year Up Puget Sound
  • Young Women Empowered, Y-WE Code

To learn more about the City of Seattle’s commitment to digital equity and the Technology Matching Fund, go here.