“Digital Navigators” are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills — with community members through repeated interactions.
The Digital Navigators can be volunteers or staff at a community-based organization who help individuals find an affordable, reliable internet connection, learn to use digital devices, apply for jobs, access government benefits for food, rent, childcare, using Zoom, email, and social media, and more. They work with each individual to provide on-demand, customized support.
Digital Navigators need to be familiar with technology, be willing to learn new tools, have up-to-date information about connectivity and equipment, be familiar with resources available in the community and need to be culturally competent.
Digital Navigators conduct outreach efforts in the community to identify individuals needing support and/or set up a telephone line for community members to call to get connected with a Digital Navigator. The Digital Navigator then takes the time to learn about the individual’s personal connectivity needs and goals and interacts with the individual repeatedly to build trust and provide a foundation for continued learning.
The Digital Navigator role is an excellent opportunity for those looking to gain professional skills in community development and digital inclusion skills training.
Why Digital Navigators
Through engagement with frontline-serving community-based organizations, those that applied/participated in the CARES Act funded Digital Divide Tech Kit Project, those that engaged in advocacy discussions around American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding, and those that engaged in Digital Inclusion Network meetings, we heard repeatedly that a major gap in the digital equity strategy was capacity building in community based organizations to provide on-demand, consistent digital skills training and support to community members.
Community responses: ARPA Digital Equity Survey (excerpt)
[We need] a [digital navigator] train the trainer program.”
"We need to know who [digital navigator] to turn to when a training video doesn’t help.”
“We need language-specific [digital literacy] training.”
"[Community] needs training, how to use software, understand what Google Docs are. [A community member] called the health clinic because they were a trusted source [in order to learn] how to use email and google software."
"[…] Language-appropriate trainings, culturally-appropriate trainings and interactive [as opposed to video] trainings are needed. We also need trainings for small businesses (nonprofits as well)."
"[We need] community in-person training; we need small-sized culturally-specific training that targets low-literacy languages areas; we need [digital literacy] training [that are] catered to smaller groups."
"One-to-one training is needed—[there are community members] that speak a language other than English or are persons with disabilities and [their] comfort with using technology is limited, so one-to-one interaction is needed."