Washington State Broadband Office awards four digital navigator grants for services statewide

Grants will serve residents with one-on-one technical support, devices, and subscriptions to facilitate internet use and adoption among targeted populations.

OLYMPIA, WA — This week, the Washington State Broadband Office approved $7,387,500 in grants for Digital Navigator services throughout Washington state. Digital Navigator services are essential in helping new internet users get online. These resources will support individuals seeking work, families supporting students, English language learners, Medicaid clients, people experiencing poverty, and senior citizens.

Digital Navigator services will include developing a hotline that community members can call during standard business hours for assistance or to schedule an appointment with a Digital Navigator. They will also offer ongoing digital literacy skills training, including technical skills and application support across a broad spectrum of devices, platforms, and applications in communities throughout Washington.

“Digital equity is about ensuring all of our state’s residents have the ability to meaningfully participate in our society, democracy and economy – especially as these opportunities are moving increasingly online,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “These navigators play an important role in providing culturally relevant support to people who need help gaining access to devices or training to use digital tools.”

The projects awarded funding are:

  • Community Health Network of Washington – $1,369,094
    Funding will deliver digital navigation services using an existing network of 20 Community Health Centers, which provide care and service to over 1 million low-income patients, including Medicaid members. Grant activities will include providing digital navigator services using an existing customer service call center, hosting web-based digital literacy skills training, and distributing devices to patients in need.
  • Equity in Education Coalition – $2,365,000
    The grant will allow the Connect Washington Coalition to provide culturally literate, community embedded digital literacy skills through digital navigator services. They will offer a multilingual call-in center to provide technology support services as well as digital navigation and resources. Funding will also support community-based digital equity solutions in partnership with local governments and state broadband funders, including the WSBO and Public Works Board.
  • Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainier Region – $1,835,000
    Grant funding is designated to provide outreach and services to all 39 counties. Services include a centralized Digital Navigator Hotline, Device and Internet Connectivity Gifting Program for device distribution, and 20 Digital Navigators strategically positioned throughout the state. Digital Navigators will provide mobile outreach and services, virtual services, and multiple service location options through their network of retail thrift stores and job training centers.
  • Seattle Housing Authority – $1,818,405
    The awarded grant will be utilized to renew and expand Seattle Housing Authority’s existing Digital Navigators pilot program. Funding will bring a range of digital navigation services to more than 5,000 people living at SHA properties throughout Seattle.

These initial programs are part of a pilot Digital Navigator Grant Program funded in the state operating budget by the 2021 Legislature. Grant funds are available for project activities through June 30, 2022.

“The WSBO’s Digital Equity team is excited for these projects to get started,” said WSBO Digital Equity Manager Ernie Rasmussen. “Access to the internet doesn’t help if you aren’t familiar with how to use the internet. Many residents of our state need these critical services to be able to go to school, make doctor’s appointments, or find a new job.”

The project announcement comes just as WSBO is launching its Digital Equity Forum in partnership with the state’s Office of Equity. The Forum will bring together diverse community voices over the next year to discuss access, affordability and digital literacy through regular meetings and listening sessions that reflect community perspectives and interests.

The Washington State Broadband Office is committed to connecting all Washington residents to high-speed broadband infrastructure by 2028. This ambitious goal must be supported by an equally ambitious goal of ensuring that residents in need have access to trusted guides who can assist with learning about internet adoption and using devices to get online. To learn more, visit www.broadband.wa.gov.

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