In the Fall of 2020 NDIA partnered with the Salt Lake City Public Library and Urban Libraries Council to bridge the Digital Divide in Salt Lake City through the launch of a Digital Navigators pilot project. To prepare for direct service in December 2020, program leadership at the City Library and NDIA worked collaboratively to develop several tools for Digital Navigators to use as they recorded and addressed the needs of community members in Salt Lake City. Today, NDIA is proud to share template versions of these tools for the broader digital inclusion community.
Available as downloadable resources on the Digital Navigators webpage, these newly added forms represent the backbone of the Digital Navigators model. With the help of our expert working group, the scope of a Digital Navigator interaction—from the initial conversation, to the troubleshooting process, and the conclusion—has been transformed into a series of forms. These forms serve as a script for a Digital Navigator to follow as they help a community member through their technology-related issue.
Digital Navigators is a replicable, scalable program designed to assist organizations that serve their communities across increased barriers to digital access resulting from COVID-19. These forms have been scrubbed of site-specific language to the City Library Digital Navigators program for any organizations or individuals to reference for their own similar projects.
Program leadership at the City Library has been intentional about partnering with community-based organizations that have roots in neighborhoods in the city that have been historically underserved. Unsurprisingly, the same neighborhoods have reported the highest COVID-19 rates over the past year.
Those organizations—University Neighborhood Partners, Suazo Business Center and Catholic Community Services—provide widespread coverage and bilingual support. Each of the organizations has one full-time digital navigator to complement the library’s three part-time employees.
“(This is a) response is to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shauna Edson, the Library’s Digital Inclusion Coordinator. “Face-to-face training classes, public-access computer labs, walk-in support services have all been shut down throughout Salt Lake City. So this model is going to explore the best ways to recreate that digital inclusion work in a remote setting.”
So far, The program has faced overwhelming demand for access to the Internet and devices. After two months of direct service, Digital Navigators have distributed 138 Chromebooks, 24 wi-fi hotspots, 10 tablets, and six refurbished desktops and laptops. The team has also addressed home connectivity by helping community members sign up for Comcast Internet Essentials, as well as the FCC’s Lifeline program. To date, six Digital Navigators working across four organizations have assisted 350 individuals. Of those interactions, a massive 88% of calls so far have been about acquiring a device.
NDIA is working with other organizations to launch Digital Navigator models, and we are using the Digital Navigator program with Salt Lake City Public Library as a pilot project to record findings and best practices to strengthen a replicable open source model for other public libraries and community-based organizations.
The Digital Navigators program with the Salt Lake City Public Library will run through September 2021.