In 2020, NDIA convened a group of digital inclusion practitioners to establish a definition for the term “digital navigator.” The term described a model for digital inclusion built upon years of similar work, tailored for the new realities of the time. Together, NDIA and our community further defined the work of digital navigators, adapted and scaled the model, and produced resources to help organizations launch and manage digital navigator programs. 

The digital navigator model is highly replicable and flexible to work in a variety of settings and target populations. Over these past few years, we’ve seen the digital navigator model evolve and shift in response to community needs (e.g. assisting community members enrolling in, then transitioning off of, the Affordable Connectivity Program) and organizational capacity (e.g. library staff dedicating more time to helping patrons with digital skills). We’re proud of the work done by the digital inclusion community to adapt the model to meet the needs of their communities and are honored to continue working alongside them. The core work of digital navigators remains to consistently provide holistic, individualized support through repeated interactions.  

Services to support community members getting connected and using technology may be provided under the name digital navigators, digital ambassadors, digital connectors, digital coaches, especialista en acceso tecnológico, or advocates. Most digital navigators provide general digital inclusion support, while some offer specialized assistance in areas like education, healthcare, or workforce development. They serve diverse populations, including people with disabilities, justice-impacted individuals, migrants and refugees, higher education students, and caregivers to K-12 students. As a result of how programs have adapted the digital navigator model to meet their community needs and organizational capacity, NDIA has worked with our community to update the definition of digital navigator and create a set of standards for digital navigators and digital navigator programs. These standards and the updated definition are designed to provide guidance on what NDIA and the digital inclusion community have learned over the past four years and to reflect the realities digital navigator programs see daily.

Updated Digital Navigator Definition

Digital navigators are trusted guides who assist community members with ongoing, individualized support for accessing affordable and appropriate connectivity, devices, and digital skills.

Digital Navigator Standards

These standards provide guidance to programs as they work to apply and adapt the digital navigator model in their communities.

Digital navigators:

    • Are embedded within a trusted community-based organization.
    • Are trained and equipped to provide digital inclusion services to their community on a variety of topics, including affordable and appropriate connectivity, devices, and digital skills.
    • Are up-to-date with information about local, state, national and Tribal resources used to holistically address digital inclusion. 
    • Understand and recognize how their activities support building digital equity in their respective fields and communities.  
    • Reliably assess client needs and goals and offer courses of action regarding one or more of the following: affordable and appropriate connectivity, devices, and digital skills (e.g. digital privacy and security).  
    • Collect, document, and manage information about services provided during interactions with community members.
    • Develop the critical skills and aptitudes to provide digital navigator service, as listed in the digital navigator job description template.

Digital Navigator Standards for Programs that Provide Digital Navigator Services

Organizations that provide digital navigator services:

    • Are trusted within the community being served.
    • Ensure digital navigator services are holistically woven into the organization’s mission and work.
    • Promote the digital navigator program within the organization’s marketing and communication plan.
    • Engage with the community to increase awareness of the program and ensure digital navigator services meet community needs.
    • Recruit digital navigators from the communities they will serve.
    • Provide a living wage to digital navigator staff.
    • Support the professional development of their digital navigators to increase their digital inclusion knowledge, skills, and growth.
    • Provide digital navigators with the opportunity to network and engage in communities of practice for peer support, exchange of ideas, and additional training.
    • Use a data management tool to track digital navigator interactions with community members.
    • Maintain a current understanding of local, state, national and Tribal resources for digital inclusion and seek resources to fill gaps as needed.
    • Participate in overall advocacy for the digital equity and inclusion needs of the communities they serve.