Digital Navigators, individuals affiliated with trusted community organizations who are trained to help people access the Internet, use devices, and build digital skills, are critical to closing the digital divide and reducing socioeconomic inequalities by helping more people get online, according to the findings of a Boston Consulting Group study, supported by Comcast, released today.
With the support of these digital case workers:
More than 65 percent of survey respondents said they obtained Internet access or a computer or tablet at home; among Hispanic and Black Americans, this increased to 72 percent.
More than 85 percent of all respondents said they used the Internet more frequently.
Almost half surveyed obtained better healthcare, and 40 percent received support with basic needs like food, rent, and housing.
1 in 3
1 in 3 found a new job or earned a higher income.
The study, “A Human Approach to Closing the Digital Divide”, surveyed more than 1,500 people nationwide who used Digital Navigator services, interviewed 40 Digital Navigators, and shadowed six Digital Navigator programs. The findings point to the critical role Digital Navigators play in teaching digital skills and increasing Internet adoption in their communities. Additional findings of the study include:
- Overall satisfaction with Digital Navigators is very high. Nearly 80% of survey respondents said they were satisfied with the Digital Navigator services they received, and many praised them for quickly fixing their issues and making them feel confident and capable.
- Although effective, Digital Navigator programs remain underfunded. Many existing Digital Navigator programs operate at a small scale — some organizations responded only being able to support fewer than 50 individuals a year. This challenge limits their capacity to reach the millions of Americans who remain without home Internet, or who face other challenges to fully realize their home Internet connection.
- Digital ecosystem players should take in six key areas to building more effective programs, including diversifying the ranks of Digital Navigators, developing curriculums and assessments, creating mechanisms to share knowledge, more research and evaluation, and execution support.
The new study follows the federal government’s bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which allocates $14 billion to provide a monthly subsidy to eligible households for broadband service and connected devices. Along with the federal government’s unprecedented investment in broadband infrastructure, the United States has a unique opportunity to reach those who remain without Internet access or digital skills. Digital Navigators can raise awareness and uptake of these low-cost Internet programs and address other barriers to adoption. For instance, data from the Census Bureau and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) show that nearly 60 percent of non-adopters point to lack of need or interest as the main reason that they do not subscribe to broadband.
“While the national funding for home Internet subsidies has the potential to be transformative for millions of Americans, this research shows that overcoming the broadband adoption hurdle is necessary to truly maximize this federal investment. For over a decade, Comcast has been committed to digital equity – through our Lift Zones and Internet Essentials programs we have helped millions get online. In supporting Digital Navigator programs, we are broadening our work to close the digital divide by partnering with community-based advocates who are trusted messengers for how access to the Internet has the power to change lives for more Americans. We appreciate the work of the Boston Consulting Group to help us learn more about these important champions for digital equity,” said Broderick Johnson, Executive Vice President, Public Policy and Executive Vice President, Digital Equity, at Comcast.
“Building on top of our 2021 report with this year’s data has empowered us to better understand how the digital divide impacts different communities, and the archetypes of digital navigators that would be required to bridge them,” said Matt Kalmus, Managing Director and Partner, BCG. “The constant result underscoring all of our efforts is that the digital divide will not close without strong coordination between both the public and private sectors.”
In line with the study’s recommendation to support their work, Comcast is investing directly in community-based initiatives and programs to support Digital Navigator and broadband adoption efforts within the communities that it serves as part of Project UP, the company’s comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity. Grant recipients are based in metro areas across the country, including Detroit, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Houston, Portland and Philadelphia, and more will follow. This investment will go towards launching and scaling up their efforts to help get more people connected to the Internet at home and expand access to digital skills programs.
“Person-to-person connection is essential to helping people get — and stay — online,” said Marvin Venay, Chief Advocacy Officer at Tech Goes Home, a nonprofit organization with more than 20 years of experience in advancing digital equity, and one of the study participants. “Providing high-quality digital devices and affordable internet access is key, but without personalized, culturally-competent support to help utilize those tools, too many people will remain shut out of the opportunities the digital world offers. Increasing the number of digital navigators in our communities will help more people access available resources and ensure that they are able to be online safely, comfortably, and for the long-term.”
Comcast has more than a decade of experience advancing Digital Equity. In 2011, Comcast launched Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most successful private-sector low-income broadband adoption program; since launch it has connected over 10 million people to the Internet at home, most for the very first time. It recently launched Internet Essentials Plus, a service that includes high-speed Internet, a cable modem, access to millions of WiFi hotspots, and unlimited data for $29.95 per month. Any Xfinity customer across all Comcast’s markets who qualifies for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can apply their $30 credit toward their monthly Internet and/or Xfinity Mobile bill. Customers can visit www.xfinity.com/acp, www.internetessentials.com, or call 844-389-4681 for more information, to determine eligibility, and sign up. A dedicated ACP Enrollment and Support Center is available from 8AM to 12AM daily, with multi-lingual capabilities to assist anyone interested in the program.
Project UP: Comcast’s $1 Billion Commitment to Advance Digital Equity
Comcast has been committed to connecting people to the Internet and the technology and skills they need to participate and excel in an increasingly digital world for over a decade. Looking toward the next ten years, Comcast is building on that foundation and expanding its impact through Project UP, a comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help build a future of unlimited possibilities. Backed by a $1 billion commitment to reach tens of millions of people, Project UP encompasses the programs and community partnerships across Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Sky that connect people to the Internet, advance economic mobility, and open doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and creators. For more information on Project UP and the latest news about Comcast’s ongoing efforts to advance digital equity visit https://corporate.comcast.com/impact/project-up.