Online opportunities

Goal

Everyone in Marin can take advantage of all online opportunities

Key performance indicators

  • Increase number of people with devices by using data collected through the needs assessment process, other sources, and additional surveys to establish a baseline to compare to future survey findings.
  • Improve level of digital literacy throughout Marin by using data collected through the needs assessment process and other sources to establish a baseline to compare to future survey data.
  • Improve users’ ratings of online services by collecting data through surveys and other collection methods to establish a baseline and compare it to future results.

Strategies

Coordinate and expand digital literacy training in Marin

Participants in the needs assessment recommended two high level actions. First, creating standards for Marin to better define what digital literacy means and help residents and businesses reach at least a basic level of literacy. Also, identifying and coordinating the various existing digital literacy training programs and filling the gaps to ensure various methods of training are available to meet Marin’s diverse needs. For example, older adults say that they need training programs that tailor the content, speed, and delivery method to their needs.

Develop a baseline standard of digital literacy for Marin. Work with schools and other training programs to incorporate these standards into their curriculum and training programs. Conduct a marketing campaign to ensure that these standards are well known and adopted throughout Marin.

Inventory digital literacy training programs, including those in K-12 and higher education, to determine gaps, identify redundancies, and ensure that digital literacy training is available for all Marin residents and businesses. Collect information such as intended audience, training method, curriculum, and whether the program is meeting Marin’s digital literacy standards. Ensure that resources spent on literacy training are optimized and that training is delivered in a variety of ways to meet the diverse needs of everyone in Marin.

Expand community-based programs to provide end user devices and support

A 2020 study about consumer electronics found that U.S. households have an average of two computers. When comparing computers/laptops per household in Marin, survey respondents reported a range of less than one half (.4) per household in the Canal Neighborhood through 3.3 per household for students at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. Even when they have adequate devices to access the Internet, some residents and business owners reported that they did not know how to take advantage of the capabilities and features, with some reporting that they never took their device out of the box.

computers per household

Create programs with eligibility standards to distribute low and no-cost devices to individuals and organizations. Identify needs, secure funding, determine eligibility, obtain, distribute, and track devices, and manage the program. To remove barriers, ensure that the process to obtain devices is easy to complete and coordinated with other entities such as those providing social services. Ensure that all low and no-cost devices are comparable to full price ones. Strive to create self-sustaining support models where recipients learn how to provide training and technical support for the devices to others.

Examples of potential projects identified through the needs assessment process include the following:

  • Expanding School Information Systems (SIS) to include the ability to collect digital information such as availability of devices and internet service at home to address student households’ needs, enable online and distance learning, and end the homework gap – when students cannot access foundational educational resources at home because of lack of devices and connectivity.
  • Providing high-quality devices to all students in Marin’s K-12 and higher education programs, on a one to one basis, and allowing students to keep a device upon graduation.
  • Collaborating with Marin’s non-profit, government, and community based organizations to provide Tech Connect Packs for residents of subsidized housing, older adults, social service recipients, homeless individuals, and other under-served people to ensure they have the devices, internet service, knowledge, and support to meet their digital needs.
  • Partnering with community foundations and other organizations to distribute low and no-cost devices to non-profits and community based organizations to address their digital needs.
  • Collaborating with economic development agencies and other organizations to partner with or create refurbishment programs to broaden Marin’s distribution of low and no-cost devices and potentially create jobs, job training opportunities, and new businesses.

37% of students surveyed in one district reported not having a reliable device at home.

— BSUSD Connection Committee Survey

Create community-based digital support networks that serve individuals and organizations without the means to get technical support. Expand existing programs or establish new ones, potentially resulting in job creation, job training opportunities, and new businesses. Launch these projects based on each communities’ specific needs and availability of resources.

Help organizations create easy to use digital services that work for everyone

Participants from every sector expressed frustration with the difficulty in using online services. They reported poor experiences such as struggling with applications with poor user interfaces that are hard to operate or do not work on a mobile phone, do not follow digital accessibility requirements, or require scanned versions of documents instead of pictures.

Assemble best practices for universal design and ease of use for online services. Work with schools, higher education, and other training programs to incorporate these best practices into their related curriculum and training programs. Share best practices with providers of online content and applications in all sectors. Conduct a marketing campaign to ensure that these practices are well known and adopted in Marin.

Context

Despite its relative wealth, Marin has residents who suffer from the digital divide. The needs assessment found that many people lack robust devices to access the internet, digital literacy, and adequate technical support. While availability of high-quality broadband is important, these other needs must be met for everyone in Marin to thrive in the digital world.

The needs assessment revealed a device disparity among Marin’s residents. Devices include computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, landlines, and Internet of Things (IoT). When asked how many devices are connected to their home internet service, respondents to the Online Residents Survey reported 8.5 per household. In contrast, respondents to a survey conducted of residents in Marin Housing Authority’s subsidized housing reported 2.6 per household. In the Canal Neighborhood, 57% of households reported not having a computer at home and 37% of students in the Bolinas-Stinson Union School District reported not having an adequate device at home.

57% of households surveyed in one neighborhood reported not having a computer at home. 

—City of San Rafael Survey of Residents in the Canal Neighborhood

Even if they have devices, some residents and business owners report not knowing where to begin. They also lack knowledge of how to perform tasks such as signing up for an email account, requesting an Uber, or participating in a telehealth session. The research also revealed that various methods and types of training are needed. For example, online digital literacy training does not work when someone is unsure of how to get on the internet. The needs assessment also revealed that digital literacy training is needed for public service employees and educators.


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