The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sudden, massive public need for trustworthy digital inclusion services. Millions of Americans need support from digital inclusion programs: to get connected with affordable home internet, find affordable computing devices, and learn basic digital skills.
“Digital Navigators” is an adaptation of traditional digital inclusion programming to this new reality, providing one-to-one dedicated support via phone service.
The realization that digital inclusion programs needed to adapt organically emerged in several places over the last month. NDIA organized an exploratory meeting with over 40 attendees to discuss the need to create a model. It’s evolved into this phone-based support we’re calling Digital Navigators.
Building on that initial discussion, NDIA is in the process of organizing a working group of digital inclusion practitioners from all over the country to develop this new model.
The pandemic response has also shut down or severely reduced the ability of libraries and other community organizations to offer their existing digital inclusion programs. Face-to-face training classes, public access computer labs, and walk-in support services are unavailable for at least a few months, maybe longer. When they do open their doors to the public, they will need to have a plan to convert back to virtual services quickly through possibly 2024. Online versions of these services can still be provided, but only to people who already have home internet, a computer or mobile device and digital skills.
To serve thousands of neighbors in our communities who are unconnected, but need to get connected as quickly as possible, our only option is to provide one-to-one basic digital inclusion services — connectivity assistance, device assistance, basic digital skills support — over the phone.