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Digital equity funding brings an extra hand to Seattle IT

The City of Seattle has been working to close the digital divide for more than 25 years. So, when the Workforce Development Council (WDC) received nearly a million dollars in funding from the Washington Department of Commerce to help bridge the digital equity gap, a partnership with the City came naturally. Seattle Information Technology (Seattle IT) was one of several community partners to receive a  grant from WDC. The goal of the funding was to provide digital navigation services, devices, hotspots, and digital skills training to those most impacted by the digital divide. These are goals that Seattle IT’s Digital Equity team is very familiar with. The Technology Matching Fund has funded digital equity projects by Seattle organizations for more than 20 years.  

“A total of twelve community organizations were supported through this funding,” said Marisol Tapia Hopper, WDC Director of Strategic Partnerships & Funding. It was a very natural partnership that we pursued with the City of Seattle. We hoped to complement each other and enhance each other’s work.”

This funding brought a familiar face back to the Digital Equity team. Dana Rin was previously an intern with Seattle IT. She is now in a funded position in WDC’s work-based learning program. Placing people in positions to gain knowledge in their field and get experience to advance their career is precisely what the WDC hoped to provide with this funding.  

Rin says she’s learned several invaluable lessons in her position, including the importance of Digital Equity. She’s learned the impact that digital navigators have on their community members. She’s been entrenched with the Seattle Digital Navigator Cohort and has built strong relationships with the organizations.

“This opportunity has enabled me to grow closer with a cohort of Digital Navigator organizations in addition to fostering mutual support and shared commitment to advancing digital equity efforts. This experience has not only deepened my understanding of their vital work but has also exposed me to diverse community groups, enriching my overall journey,” said Rin.

As a result of the partnership, 50 Seattle residents received laptops, and many residents learned about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Additionally, a Digital Equity Asset Map was developed for WDC’s public-facing webpage, extensive resource lists were created for digital navigators, cybersecurity training was given to digital navigators, and many Seattle residents were connected to digital navigator services.

Seattle IT and WDC hope to continue to partner to further this work. In the meantime, Seattle’s work-based learning position continues through a partnership with YWCA through October. Rin is looking to the future to continue her career path along the lines of closing the digital divide.

Rin says this role has been important to her career.