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The City of Austin vision includes every Austin resident having an opportunity to be fully engaged in digital society, accessing and using digital and communications technology.

Technology Device Refurbishment

The Digital Inclusion Program has distributed 487 refurbished laptop and desktop computers of a total available inventory of 501 devices have been awarded through the PC Community Loan Program to supply refurbished city computers to awardees who provide a public benefit of connectivity, access, and opportunity. To support the full utilization of the devices, the City secured a Microsoft Certified Refurbisher License and used Austin Community College interns to assist with refurbishing the devices.  

Build Financial Capacity for Non-Profits Working in Digital Inclusion

GTOPs provide matching grant funds to Austin organizations for projects that create digital opportunities and foster digital inclusion. GTOPs has one application cycle per year and offers individual grants of $10,000 to $25,000. Grant applications are reviewed and scored by a panel of qualified community representatives appointed by the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission, which has final approval over recipient selection.

Applications for the 2018 grant were accepted from September 29, 2017 through December 1, 2017. The Community Technology & Telecommunications Commission appointed a volunteer Grant Review Committee comprised of seven (7) qualified community representatives, six (6) of whom remained on the committee for the duration of the process. The City received a total of twenty-eight (28) applications for GTOPs 2018. The Committee eliminated twelve (12) applications in the first round of scoring. The review board scored the remaining sixteen (16) applicants based on the selection criteria outlined by the Commission including: the ability promote citizen access to information technology, or that offer literacy programs that create digital opportunities and foster digital inclusion, community impact, evaluation of success and budget/fiscal responsibility. The applicants were given the opportunity to give a short oral presentation to the review committee, followed by a question and answer session. After the final scores were tallied and discussed, staff developed recommendations for full and partial awards based on the funding & scoring guidelines as detailed here

New in FY18 is the availability of devices to supplement the financial award. For the FY18 GTOPs cycle, 269 refurbished Dell Optiplex desktops (towers only, no screen or peripherals) were available for request. The units have 4GB of RAM, a minimum of 160GB of hard drive space, and at least an Intel i3 processor. Windows 10 and Microsoft Office Suite can be pre-installed for $6 per license requested (GTOPs funds cannot be requested to cover the cost of the licenses). Device awards are between 10 and 30 units per grantee.  In FY 2017, GTOPs provided grant funds to nine organizations, find out more information @ gtops.org.  GTOPs served 2,665 unduplicated clients in FY16, and the FY17 program is in progress with 1,135 unduplicated clients served to date.

Provide Relevant IT Experience and Skills Development Opportunities

The City's PC Community Loan Pilot has partnered with two organizations, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) with interns from Austin Community College and students from American Youthworks (AYW) MediaCorps Program have been assisting with the refurbishment of GTOP's (Grant for Technology Opportunities Program) awardee devices.

American Youthworks is a 2018 GTOP's award recipient and will be receiving 30, City retired desktop computers from the PC Community Loan Program. HACA interns assisted the YouthWorks students in re-imaging the PC's. The devices will be used by students learning IT certifications in the MediaCorps Program. The HACA interns also refurbished 50 laptops to be awarded to HACA residents receiving the Austin Pathways HACA Scholarship. 

The TechHire Working Group has supported initiatives including a Dell Hiring Class Pipeline Expansion, Opportunity at Work, Career Portal, KLRU Workforce Development Series and Inventive Update. The group will also deliberate continued private sector engagement.  The Digital Inclusion Team has partnered with CTM to generate proposal for a TechHire Fellowship Program to enable experience and training for underserved students to assist with the PC Refresh program. 

Provide Training Capacity for Non-Profits Working in Digital Inclusion

The Digital Empowerment Community of Austin- Capacity Working Group continues work toward objectives for an Internet community resource map and inventory of assets that can be leveraged to support program development in the community.  The working group also serves to heighten outcomes from the residential technology survey; and to leverage US Ignite funds and to convene lunch and learns with the private tech sector. 

The Digital Empowerment Community of Austin - Curriculum Standards Working Group developed a portfolio of digital literacy skills fundamentals to create flexible and relevant digital literacy curriculum standards for the following topics; Device, Internet, Email, Productivity Programs (Microsoft Office), Social Media, Job Search, Resource Apps (Uber), Smartphones, and Privacy and Security.  The Digital Inclusion Team co-created with City departments represented in the Community Technology Management Scope of Work (APL, APH, HRD & PARD) serving their client population to align these standards to self-sufficiency outcomes.

Data Collection and research on digital inclusion

The residential technology survey was mailed and available online for the sample of residents who received it. The Digital Inclusion Program generated a communications strategy for outreach and awareness of the survey through a variety of channels including media coverage, partner organizations and client-focused programs supported by the City.  The English language survey was mailed on March 6th and the Spanish language version of the survey was mailed on March 16, 2018.  A total of 11,000 residents received the survey, with an oversample of lower-income neighborhoods as identified from the 2010 census.  A total of 900 responses have been received the week of April 30. The City's goal is for a 12% response rate (1,325). The Digital Inclusion Program has developed a plan with UT to survey more underserved residents to generate additional data.

The Digital Inclusion Program serves the Open and Smart Advisory Committee: Equitable Outcomes Working Group. The vision of the group is ""How Might We Solve Real Problems for Real People""?  The working group meeting will convene its third meeting to explore demographics questions used across the organization.  The outcome is to develop data standards with consideration of the equity assessment tool and the digital services project.  The stakeholders include APH, APL, PARD, Sustainability, CTM, Equity Office and NHCD.

Increase Public Access to the Internet

The Google Fiber Community Connections Program that provides free gigabit Internet connectivity to 102 public and non-profit facilities.  To date, 21 facilities have been connected to gigabit speed Internet, concurrent with Google Fiber’s deployment and construction.  The Digital Inclusion Program created a report of the Community Connections facilities with active gigabit speed Internet, how those facilities are utilizing the connection, and what benefits it brings to the core services offered.   

Community Engagement and Communications

Austin serves as a Smart Gigabit Communities through a grant program with US Ignite and a network of other cities.   The National Science Foundation awarded US Ignite a three-year grant to foster the development of transformative applications supported by gigabit broadband speeds that address local community needs in the six national priority areas: education and workforce; energy; health; public safety; transportation and advanced manufacturing applications.  Austin convened a reverse pitch in December of 2017 to award seed funding of $19,000 to Just In Time VR and Kiwi Compute to further develop their applications. They will also be showcased with select cities across the United States participating in the Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities program.

Provide Training Capacity for Non-Profits Working in Digital Inclusion

The Digital Empowerment Community of Austin- Capacity Working Group continues work toward objectives for an Internet community resource map and inventory of assets that can be leveraged to support program development in the community.  The working group also serves to heighten outcomes from the residential technology survey; and to leverage US Ignite funds and to convene lunch and learns with the private tech sector. 

The Digital Empowerment Community of Austin - Curriculum Standards Working Group developed a portfolio of digital literacy skills fundamentals to create flexible and relevant digital literacy curriculum standards for the following topics; Device, Internet, Email, Productivity Programs (Microsoft Office), Social Media, Job Search, Resource Apps (Uber), Smartphones, and Privacy and Security.  The Digital Inclusion Team co-created with City departments represented in the Community Technology Management Scope of Work (APL, APH, HRD & PARD) serving their client population to align these standards to self-sufficiency outcomes.

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