Collection: Glass Blog

What is Seattle's Vision for Digital Equity?

What is Seattle's Vision for Digital Equity?

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, U.S. cities began to work on digital equity. During this period, the rapid expansion of the internet and the increasing importance of digital technologies prompted cities to address the issue of digital inequality and strive for equitable access to technology and online resources.

Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston were among the early adopters of digital equity initiatives, launching programs to bridge the digital divide and ensure equal opportunities for their residents, and seeking to provide access to technology, digital skills training, and resources for underserved communities, narrowing the gap in digital literacy and access to online services.

The City of Seattle was among the first to embark upon its digital equity initiative with the objective of ensuring that its residents could access government information and engage in online participation. Join us as we delve into the evolution of Seattle’s approach to inclusion and digital equity.

In 1997, Seattle established a vision for fostering a Technologically Healthy Community and initiated the Technology Matching Fund grant program. In 2000, the city initiated the Technology Access and Adoption community study to actively engage with the community and gather crucial insights regarding residents’ access to and utilization of technology and internet services, identifying barriers to technology use and understanding the necessary support required to ensure digital equity for all residents. 

Years later, the city collaborated with diverse stakeholders, city departments, and government officials to craft a comprehensive Digital Equity Action Plan. This plan was carefully developed through the active involvement of over 100 community leaders, non-profit organizations, and companies, whose valuable contributions aided in identifying critical needs, defining a shared vision, and formulating potential strategies to advance digital equity.

In 2020, the City Council adopted the Internet for All resolution, which aimed to “implement Internet for All Seattle, a vision of enabling all Seattle residents to access and adopt broadband internet service that is reliable and affordable.”

Former Mayor Jenny Durkan said, “We know that access to technology is a race and social justice issue, and the pandemic has further magnified the digital inequities with many in our community lacking the technology and devices needed for school or work. The Internet for All Initiative provides the City of Seattle a new roadmap and tangible action plan to close the digital divide and meaningfully increase access to both Wi-Fi and devices at this critical time for our City.”

Seattle’s digital equity work is based on four elements: 1) Internet, 2) skills and tech support, 3) devices, and 4) applications and services. The city aims to ensure that residents have access to the Internet that is not only affordable but also dependable, allowing them to access essential resources and engage in both downloading and contributing to online content. Moreover, the city seeks to equip individuals with the knowledge and proficiency needed to effectively utilize equipment, applications, and the internet. In order to foster productivity, content creation, and active participation, Seattle recognizes the importance of providing computers and related accessories and emphasizes the inclusion of diverse users in the design and implementation of services.

Based on the city’s official website, “of the 49 action items in the Internet for All Seattle Action Plan, the City has completed, consolidated or closed 35 items.” Among the main objectives achieved are: 1) support Seattle Public Schools’ efforts to increase and improve student-household internet access and quality, and 2) foster up to 20,000 internet connections and devices for the underserved.

To date, the Internet For All initiative has played a pivotal role in Seattle’s relentless pursuit of maximizing digital equity. Since its inception, the initiative has made noteworthy strides by distributing over 17,000 devices, facilitating the loan of 96,372 devices, and establishing 26,993 internet hotspots. 

Cities like Seattle, which continuously engage in proactive planning, design, and implementation of public policies promoting digital equity, present an exceptional opportunity for any business seeking to establish its presence within the city. A city that ensures digital equity demonstrates its forward-thinking approach and commitment to overall growth and advancement across several domains.

It is not merely about guaranteeing internet access for all residents; this government policy aims to position the city as one of the finest places to live. For many, access to the internet is considered a fundamental human right. In an era where the Internet serves as the cornerstone of various activities, neglecting to create digitally inclusive environments becomes a significant hindrance to the exercise of such a right.

Hence, we celebrate the City of Seattle for being one of the cities in the United States pioneering the prioritization of digital equity, initiating discussions and implementing programs during a time when the technological landscape was still in its infancy.

At GLASS, we consistently shine a spotlight on cities and their governments that are making significant strides towards a fair, sustainable, and human-centered digital future. We have had the privilege of collaborating with the City of Seattle and have gained deep insight into their commitment to digital equity. We wholeheartedly commend Seattle for its unwavering dedication, and we remain steadfast in our pursuit of a more equitable future across the world. Let’s continue working together to build a better and more inclusive tomorrow!


This blog was written by Gisela Montes, GovTech Community Lead at Glass.


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