Portland City Hall might soon implement technology that gives residents individualized push notifications with city updates.

During a talk at TechfestNW today, Elisabeth Perez, operations director for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's office, joined Zohar Sharon, Chief Knowledge Officer for the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality, to talk about technology Sharon developed in Tel Aviv to connect residents with city government.

The technology, called DigiTel, allows the government to gather demographic information from residents and then send them push notifications about city happenings. In exchange for providing personal information, people who sign up get perks like free yoga classes and free ice cream.

Perez says her goal with similar technology in Portland is to "serve citizens who are not been served."

"We're not getting info from individuals," she says, "but individually we are targeting people who have not been connected previously and don't have means to participate."

Perez adds that she'd like Portland to be able to "push information out and get feedback," in the form of mobile phone notifications.

Four protesters—affiliated with Don’t Shoot Portland, the Portland Democratic Socialists of America and Jewish Voice for Peace—stood up at various points during the event to decry the talk. They appeared to be aligned with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which demands that governments disassociate from Israel to support Palestinian rights.

Protester interrupts speaker at TechfestNW 2019 (Sam Gehrke)
Protester interrupts speaker at TechfestNW 2019 (Sam Gehrke)

Olivia Katbi Smith, co-chair of the Portland DSA, yelled, "You are complicit in whitewashing apartheid," and "Free Palestine" while handing out flyers to audience members about "[Israel's] colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people."

Katbi Smith and the three other protesters were escorted out of the room as the talk continued.