Seattle boosts community projects

Seattle's 4-year-old Technology Matching Fund program recently increased its total funding of citizen-driven projects to more than $750,000, with some $1.6 million in matching community contributions.

A major focus of the program is to help bridge the "digital divide" for low-income families, those with less education, senior citizens, African Americans and Hispanics — populations that studies say have not yet benefited from the city's high-tech surge.

Nine projects were awarded $138,000 in the recent round of funding, from a total of 21 applications. Communities provided more than $344,000 in matching funds.

"The program was initially set up under the government's digital divide program, which was aimed at simply providing technology resources to underserved areas," said Emily Bancroft, a member of the Citizen's Technology Literacy and Access Group in Seattle's Department of Information Technology. "But we've come to look at it more as a way of building "technology healthy' communities, where technology is seen as a means of helping communities accomplish what they want to do."

Projects funded in the latest round of awards include:

    * Establishing a technology learning center to develop citizens' computer literacy and multimedia skills.

    * Establishing a small lab where low-income senior citizens in nursing homes can learn basic computer and Internet skills.

    * Upgrading existing computer labs in transitional and low-income housing buildings.

The city money for the Technology Matching Fund (www.ci.seattle.wa.us/tech/tmf) comes out of the franchise fees that Seattle collects from local cable TV service providers. Community matching funds can be in the form of dollars or, for example, the equivalent in donated hours of labor or equipment such as software and hardware.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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