The Digital Navigator Model

Adding digital equity to our social safety net

Historically, most individuals have had to navigate access to internet, devices, and technical support on their own, which leaves some unable to fully participate in our society, democracy and economy. Digital inclusion hasn’t fully been woven into our social support systems and community institutions. Now is the time.

 

What are Digital Navigators? 

Digital Navigators are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills — through repeated interactions, if that’s what a community member needs. This may involve referrals to partner resources like device providers or online training, but the Digital Navigator remains the primary resource for the client and does “warm hand-offs” with the other providers reporting back to the Digital Navigator.

The Digital Navigator model draws from both volunteers and cross-trained social services staff who offer remote and in-person guidance. Often at trusted community based organizations, Digital Navigators are familiar with resources that relate to digital equity, and help residents learn to use critical services online that help them with food support, rent, education, employment, childcare, and government benefits. They are culturally anchored and trauma informed.

The model begins with asset mapping, development of processes customized to each site, and results in local communities with stronger digital inclusion advocacy skills. 

NDIA is available for consulting about adapting the model to your community’s needs and existing social services and to provide Digital Navigator Training

Definitions

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 Developing 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”.

 

Working group members gather weekly to discuss what’s working, compare notes, give feedback, and share documents. 

Karisa Tashjian from National Cristina Foundation, Wanda Davis from Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center, Stephanie Miller from Multnomah County Library, Marian Christmon from Nashville Public Library, Margaret Käufer from STEM Alliance, Amy Sheon an NDIA Senior Fellow and from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Brian McGuirk from Multnomah County Library, Tracy Treece from Denver Public Library, Chrissie Powell from Byte Back Baltimore, Mark Rivera from Byte Back DC, Shauna Edson from Salt Lake City Public Library, Casey Miller from Tech Goes Home Chattanooga, Juliet Fink-Yates from Philadelphia Office of Innovation, Daniela Fairchild from RI Office of Innovation, Alison Ascher, Webber from Digital US / World Education, Priyanka Sharma from Digital US / World Education, Bob Reeder from Rural LISC, Kami Griffiths from Community Tech Network, Stephen Minor from Community Tech Network, Alfonso Oliveras from New York State Library, Nicole Umayam from Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, Stacey Wedlake from Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA), University of Washington Information School, and Andy Stutzman from Drexel University/Technology Learning Collaborative (TLC Philly)