City of Cambridge Launches Digital Navigator Pilot Program with Local Partners to Support Residents' Digital Needs

City of Cambridge Launches Digital Navigator Pilot Program with Local Partners to Support Residents' Digital Needs
Posted on 02/06/2024
The City of Cambridge is proud to announce the launch of the Digital Navigator Pilot Program (DNP), a collaborative effort between City of Cambridge Information Technology Department, Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge Public School Department, Just A Start, and Cambridge Community Television (CCTV). This initiative is designed to support residents’ digital needs and will be funded by the Mass Broadband Institute and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in partnership with the MassHire Metro North Workforce Investment Board.

The pandemic made visible the barriers to digital equity and the price it exacts on those excluded from digital connection. According to the City’s own research, a significant number of low-income residents, as many as 40%, have indicated in surveys that they do not know how to use the internet for essential functions such as banking, contacting medical support, or purchasing groceries.

Deploying Digital Navigators to support residents’ use of technology in places in the community where they feel comfortable is a strategy that has proven successful in other communities and one the City, region and state will employ over the next year. Key program activities will include hiring and training digital navigators to be placed in the Cambridge Public Library and Cambridge Public Schools, working in partnership with navigators at CCTV and Just A Start.

Navigators will connect residents with a wide array of social services, ensuring that both the digital and non-digital needs of families are met. A primary focus will be providing a menu of supports and services to low-income residents, including identifying and assessing individuals' digital needs, assisting residents in signing up with low-cost internet providers, troubleshooting connectivity issues, and connecting residents to free or low-cost computers, hot spots, or related equipment. They will also assist residents in setting up computers, tablets, or other devices for home use, while tracking individual residents' progress and types of requests, and maintaining accurate and timely records.

CCTV will employ a coordinator as part of the project, who will serve residents and coordinate the digital navigators across partners to build community, skills, and consistency in supports for residents. Regular meetings will be coordinated for digital navigators across the city to share best practices, discuss challenging cases, exchange community resources, and measure impact from data collection. These efforts will align with regional initiatives supported through the Mass Broadband Institute Digital Navigator coalition.

“The Digital Navigator Pilot Program represents a significant step forward in bridging the digital divide and ensuring that all residents have equitable access in an increasingly online world,” said Cambridge City Manager Yi-An Huang. “We are grateful to work with our local and regional partners, who share aligned missions and goals to best support our residents.”

"CCTV has long been committed to access and community wellbeing,” said Jessica Smyser, Executive Director, Cambridge Community Television. “This program will allow us to deepen and expand the reach of our Foundational Technology program and bring crucial tech support and training to Cambridge Residents."

"We are so excited to bring these digital navigation services right to where our residents live and lower the barriers for inclusion in the digital space,” said Gerry Zipser, Director of Housing, Just A Start.

A grant celebration and networking event for the program will be held on Wednesday, February 7 from 9-11 a.m. in the La Colaborativa – Chelsea Survival Center in 63 6th Street in Chelsea. To reserve a spot at the event, please visit Grant Celebration and Networking Event! Tickets, Wed, Feb 7, 2024 at 9:00 AM | Eventbrite.
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