The Digital Navigator Model

Adding digital equity to our social safety net

Historically, most individuals have had to navigate home access to internet, devices, and technical support on their own, which leaves some unable to fully participate in our society, democracy and economy. Reliance on group access at anchor institutions, such as public libraries was inconvenient prior to COVID is now not a safe option.  Digital inclusion has not yet been fully woven into our social support systems and community institutions. NDIA is convening the field weekly to respond to rapidly changing conditions. This page will be updated frequently.

 

What are Digital Navigators? 

Digital Navigators are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills — with community members through repeated interactions.

Navigators can be volunteers or cross-trained staff who already work in social service agencies, libraries, health, and more who offer remote and socially distant in-person guidance. Often at trusted community-based organizations, Digital Navigators are familiar with resources that relate to digital equity, and they help residents learn to use critical online services that provide guidance with food support, rent, education, employment, childcare, government benefits and more. They recommend resources and check back with the client.

The model begins with asset mapping, continues with the development of processes customized to each site, and results in local communities with stronger digital inclusion resources. A trained Digital Navigator will be able to assess a community member’s need, and competently guide them towards resources that are suitable both for their skill level and lifestyle. Taking into account social distancing, a Digital Navigator can reliably point a community member to online resources suitable to their needs such as online classes or self-guided tutorials. 

The Digital Navigator model is a replicable framework for organizations already providing digital inclusion services or those entering the digital inclusion space to ensure that their constituents can connect with them online.  NDIA is available for consulting about adapting the model to your community’s needs, existing social services, and to provide Digital Navigator Training.

 

Definitions

Digital Navigators

Digital navigators are trusted guides who assist community members in internet adoption and the use of computing devices. Digital navigation services include ongoing assistance with affordable internet access, device acquisition, technical skills, and application support.

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).  This includes 5 elements: 1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 2) internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration. Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances. Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.

Digital Equity

Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.  Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

What NDIA and Affiliates are doing to Develop the Digital Navigator Model

NDIA is providing direct assistance to Rural LISC and the Salt Lake City Public Library to develop pilot Digital Navigator programs operating within their partner sites. 

At the same time, some NDIA Affiliates are developing their own versions of the Digital Navigator model. In the shared materials linked below, you’ll see contributions from partners in Salt Lake City, Cleveland, Seattle, Philadelphia, Nashville, Austin, Portland, Denver, Providence, and more. Learning from all, NDIA is sharing components of the Digital Navigator model as they are developed. .

Digital Navigator Resources

 

We offer all materials under the Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons license. Feel free to remix, adapt, and build upon this work non-commercially. Please acknowledge the work that went into your new work by noting: “Framework provided by National Digital Inclusion Alliance”.

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