The Digital Navigator ModelAdding Digital Equity to Our Social Safety Net
Who 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.
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.
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 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.
What NDIA and Affiliates are doing to Develop the Digital Navigator Model
In 2020, NDIA provided direct assistance to Rural LISC and the Salt Lake City Public Library to develop pilot Digital Navigator programs operating within their partner sites, and continues to provide consultation for digital navigator program development, management, training and technical assistance to community, regional and statewide programs. NDIA launched and directly supports 18 digital navigator programs in rural and Tribal communities in the National Digital Navigator Corps.
Many NDIA affiliates have implemented the digital navigator model in their own way and support one another as a community through NDIA’s Digital Navigator Working Group. The digital navigator resources shared below were developed with members of the working group and are freely available for use and adaptation by any digital navigator program. This living model is ever-evolving to meet the needs of communities. Learning from all, NDIA shares best practices from the digital navigator model as they are developed.
NDIA’s National Digital Navigator Corps is
serving rural and Tribal communities.
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.”
Baseline Digital Navigator Job Description
Created by NDIA working group
Use this form to collect general information about your community member’s technology needs.
Session Summary Form (formerly “Exit Survey”)
To be completed after speaking with a community member to record details of the interaction.
The purpose of this form is to get a general idea of your community member’s comfort with technology.
To be completed with a community member at regular intervals as a matter of checking in, and also to record any growth in their learning.
Intro to ACP for DNs Slides
Deck from NDIA on Affordable Connectivity Program basics
ACP Tips for DNs
Tips for digital navigators assisting with Affordable Connectivity Program sign-ups, from NDIA.
Free and Low-Cost Internet Plans Page
Database maintained by NDIA
Digital Navigator Infographic
Created by Literacy Minnesota for distribution.
Digital Navigator Toolkit
The toolkit offers a case study successful implementation of Digital Navigators in a public library setting at the Salt Lake City Public Library pilot program, delivered in partnership with the Urban Libraries Council with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.