Comcast and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Thursday announced the launch of a Digital Navigator program that will utilize trained students to get more Baltimore-area residents and CCBC students connected to the Internet at home, while also teaching digital literacy skills and how to use devices.
The program is supported by a $150,000 grant from Comcast that will be used to hire and train nearly a dozen CCBC students. The CCBC Digital Navigators will focus on addressing barriers households face to getting online, namely affordability, access to devices and digital skills. Digital Navigators are trained to educate residents, including the thousands of CCBC students returning to campus this fall in need of high-speed Internet for schoolwork and job searches – about resources available to overcome these obstacles.
The CCBC Digital Navigator program, part of Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to advance digital equity, builds on Comcast’s continued partnership with Baltimore County to bridge the digital divide. Earlier this year, Comcast and Baltimore County announced the latest phase of a rural broadband expansion which will bring high-speed Internet to 99% of previously unserved residences in northern Baltimore County.
The Digital Navigator model is a research-driven approach that engages trusted community organizations to address the root causes of the digital divide, including access to the internet, technology, and digital skills. A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group surveyed more than 1,500 people nationwide who used Digital Navigator services and revealed the critical role Digital Navigators play in closing the digital divide and reducing socioeconomic inequalities. Key takeaways include:
More than 65% of survey respondents said they obtained Internet access or a computer or tablet at home; among Hispanic and Black Americans, this increased to 72%. More than 85% of all respondents said they used the Internet more frequently.
Almost half surveyed obtained better health care and 40% received support with basic needs like food, rent and housing. Close to 33% found a new job or earned a higher income.