Technology Matching Fund: Getting Past Digital Divides

On Monday, August 2, the Council unanimously approved allocating $300,000 from the Technology Matching Fund to 24 community based organizations.  The goal of the Technology Matching Fund is to increase residents’ access to technology and technological literacy.

These funds will reach some 15,000 at-risk youth, immigrants and refugees, seniors, and people with disabilities in 2010.  The Technology Matching Fund has supported 153 projects since it was first developed in 1998, but the $300,000 allocated this year represents one of the few budget increases approved for 2010 — up from $250,000 in 2009.  The Council initiated this increase because of the demonstrated effectiveness of the Technology Matching Fund.  It was possible because funding for this program comes from a dedicated source that cannot be used for general government purposes.

The Technology Matching Fund comes from cable franchise fees, money the City receives from companies operating cable television service.  Under federal law, revenues received from franchise fees can only be used for television and technology related purposes, and are not available for other City general fund purposes.  They are used to support the award-winning Seattle Channel and Public Access channel, along with the innovative Technology Matching Fund.

Some examples of the kind of projects to be supported in 2010 include:

  • The Alliance of People With Disabilities will use $20,000 to build an assistive technology center where residents with disabilities can learn about new adaptive technology.
  • The Coalition for Refugees from Burma will receive $15,000 to develop a mobile computing program to deliver computer literacy training to newly arrived refugees from Burma.
  • The Central Area Senior Center will get $13,400 to upgrade their computer lab and offer instruction to older adults.
  • First Tee of Seattle will be allocated $7,700 to develop a five station computer lab and offer college preparation mentoring and other classes to underserved youth.

Like the Neighborhood Matching Fund, the Technology Matching Fund is one of the most cost effective investments of City funds.  These are creative ways to mobilize volunteer energy and community resources.  They stretch limited public funds and deliver important services to the people of Seattle.  I am very pleased that I was able to partner with Councilmember Bruce Harrell to persuade the Council to increase the funding for 2010.  We hope to be able to look at still another increase in 2011.