On May 2, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released its Broadband Adoption Toolkit, a document aimed at sharing best practices developed from broadband adoption and digital literacy projects funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The following can be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Cecilia Garcia:
In addition to promoting jobs and economic development, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's broadband stimulus programs were meant to develop community-based models for broadband deployment, adoption and meaningful use in unserved and underserved populations. Today, access to healthcare, educational resources, job training, potential employers, local/state/federal government services, and sources of news all depend on robust access to and regular use of broadband. The private sector alone has not gotten us to universal broadband, a requirement for everyone to be able to participate fully in our economy and civic life. Four years after passage of the ARRA, the successes of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) must be used to shape both pragmatic policy and best practices for broadband rollout and adoption.
In our research and convenings, the Benton Foundation has found that BTOP-supported projects targeting low-income seniors can greatly inform how to structure the most effective programs to get seniors online:
- Barriers to adoption for the elderly include anxiety. Projects reported that many seniors fear that they’ll break the computer or otherwise do something wrong.
- The elderly experience greater socio-economic disparities than other age groups.
- Effective approaches consider age tiers, rather than lumping seniors into a “65 years+” category.
- Isolation – contrary to popular opinion, use of computers and the Internet by the elderly helps fight off isolation, rather than increase it.
- Trust issues: public libraries are cited as trusted places for seniors.
- It is critical to include the elderly in planning successful program: “Do with, not for.”
- Seniors make great peer coaches
NTIA’s toolkit collects valuable lessons learned and best practices from BTOP computer centers and adoption projects – representing a federal investment of $450M - in one reference manual. It includes chapters on outreach, discount offerings, program planning, training and curriculum. This is a most welcome resource!