Seattle’s ‘Innovation Advisory Council’ to commit corporate technology to homelessness, transportation issues

Officials from companies including Amazon, Zillow, Microsoft, Expedia and Tableau say they will share their technology to help solve local issues.

Weeks removed from a failed head-tax initiative on its biggest corporations, Seattle’s government and business class appear to have found a level playing ground — not through the exchange of money, but ideas.

On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the creation of an Innovation Advisory Council in an executive order that touted the city’s abundant corporate technological resources as an untapped aid in city hall’s effort to solve increasing homelessness and mobility issues.

Durkan told the Seattle Times that serving members might design an app that connects homeless service providers with the homeless, increasing awareness of potential shelter beds and benefits for struggling Seattleites.

The order doesn’t clarify any monetary or time commitments to the council for the companies sitting on it, however. Officials from Amazon, Zillow, Microsoft, Expedia and Tableau — many of whom publicly opposed the head-tax that would have helped fund homeless services and affordable housing — say they’ll commit to finding “technology solutions” for those exact issues while on the council, according to a statement.


At least for now, the council will be co-chaired by representatives from a number of Washington-based tech companies and staffed by officials from a number of different fields, including engineering, mobility, data analytics and software development. The executive order also denotes an effort to staff the council with underrepresented and minority members, but the city gave itself until September 7 to figure out the exact composition of the group.

“Seattle is a city that has always invented the future. Working together, we have to seize the opportunity to address our shared challenges in new and innovative ways,” said Mayor Durkan in a statement.

The executive order asserts that those challenges, specifically the delivery of basic services, the housing and homelessness crisis and transportation issues, will be addressed through a bevy of technical solutions — data analysis, dashboards, applications and software.

Seattle is far from the the only city taking advantage of local companies to further civic development. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced his NYCX Technology Leadership Advisory Council in January this year to make New York the “fairest city in the world.”

Latest Podcasts