“Help is really necessary”: Case study of a technology distribution program for low-income job seekers

Abstract

development for low-income job seekers but these were often neglected parts of programs and services. COVID-19 made them essential components and drove the rapid development and implementation of digital access efforts. Digital Bridge, created in partnership with local government and employment services nonprofits, launched in July 2020. The program distributed 193 refurbished laptops and 174 internet hotspots; recipients also had access to Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment, curriculum, and a technical support phone line. This case study details the process and lessons learned from a technology access and skills program launched in Washington State, USA for individuals enrolled in job training programs and career navigation services funded by the federal government. We conducted a mixed-methods study to understand Digital Bridge recipient needs and program impacts. Upon enrollment, participants filled out a survey and took a digital skills assessment. 15 of these also completed a series of audio diaries and interviews to share about their technology use. Four case managers completed audio diaries and participated in a focus group to give feedback on the program. This study illuminates the complete ecosystem of service support needed for participant success, the role and challenges of public and private sector support, and the requirements to integrate a digital skills and access program while protecting participant privacy. The Digital Bridge program put additional demand on and skills required of case managers and highlighted the importance of personal relationships for those needing to access technology assistance and support. We found that technology distribution programs and remote job training and other services need digital literacy support and training for both participants and case managers.

Recommended Citation

Wedlake, Stacey “Help is really necessary”: Case study of a technology distribution program for low-income job seekers (September 14, 2021). Available at https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/47774/DIPRC_%20%e2%80%9cHelp%20is%20really%20necessary%e2%80%9d.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Keywords

digital bridge, digital skills