- The Seattle City Council announced the recipients of $400,000 in grants to improve digital literacy and improve access to technology for underserved populations. The 12 organizations will reach an estimated 8,300 residents, the city said.
- The Technology Matching Fund grants are distributed annually, although this year the city chose fewer recipients to get larger individual grants than in previous years.
- This year’s recipients include a program designed for 40 East African girls, a computer lab to serve minority teenagers and upgrades to a computer lab that offers job readiness training low-income and unskilled residents.
The funding recognizes the importance of technology in a modern city, where everything from civic functions to job applications to banking has moved online. Cities are increasingly coming to grips with their own digital divides; in Detroit, more than half of residents do not have subscriptions to high-speed internet, and cities like Cleveland and Memphis, TN have nearly half of residents lacking high-speed internet. The problem is more than just about laying more fiber — many residents do not choose to get subscriptions because of the high cost or because of a lack of knowledge about how it would improve their lives.
Training people to use the internet effectively, especially immigrants or low-income people that may lack the resources of other Seattle residents, is a step toward expanding broadband use and closing the digital divide.
Delia Burke, program manager for Seattle’s fund, told StateScoop that technology is "so pervasive and many people, unfortunately, are not able to participate due to not being able to afford the technology or not having the skills to know how to use it." She added that the grants are "so important to those folks who are left out."
Philadelphia recently distributed its own digital literacy grants, while other cities like Baltimore and Louisville have poured resources into dedicated digital inclusion positions in the government. As cities continue to get smarter and put more functions online, it will be key to ensure that residents don’t get left behind because of a knowledge gap.