What is Digital Inclusion?  Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of information and communications technologies.  Digital inclusion for health care includes three core components:

  • Access to affordable and adequate broadband internet service.
  • Access to video-enabled devices.
  • Access to digital literacy training and resources.

Check out this blog post on Digital Access: A Super Determinant of Health for a deeper dive!  Here are two resources that help you identify areas where there are digital equity challenges:

General Digital Literacy and Equity Resources:

  • Telehealth Access for Seniors provides seniors and low-income communities with devices, instructions and free tech-support to connect them to their physicians via telehealth through the generosity of donations and volunteers. Visit their website to donate, request technical support (individuals) or to request assistance with accessing phones/tablets for your patients (clinics only).
  • The National Digital Equity Center advocates for Digital Inclusion which includes Affordable Broadband, Affordable Equipment and Public Computer Access. The National Digital Equity Center is focused on creating digitally literate citizens across Maine and beyond, providing communities with the expertise to mobilize broadband technologies through digital inclusion and literacy efforts.  While many of the resources are focused on Maine, there are also many educational resources applicable to all including online webinars/classes.
  • The National Digital Inclusion Alliance advances digital equity by supporting community programs and equipping policymakers to act.
  • iCanConnectalso known as the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), was established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  iCanConnect provides free equipment including smartphones, tablets, computers, screen readers, braille displays, and more to people who meet federal disability and income guidelines.
  • National Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training (AT3) Center is your one-stop connection to information about the Assistive Technology Act, State Assistive Technology Programs, and general assistive technology.
  • Telehealth Equity Coalition is building a wide coalition of supporters to advocate for greater access to telehealth, with a specific focus on broadband and hardware access, digital and health literacy, trust and accountability, social determinants of health, educating communities about telehealth and evidence and value based care.
  • Digitunity (Digital Opportunity Network) is working to eliminate the technology gap in partnership with a network of stakeholders.  While not focused on health care, some of their initiatives include refurbishing computers and creating pathways to device ownership.

Digital Navigator Resources:  Digital navigators are trusted guides who assist community members in internet adoption and the use of computing devices. Digital navigation services include ongoing assistance with affordable internet access, device acquisition, technical skills, and application support.

Free/Low Cost Broadband Access Resources:

  •  This tool assists users with finding low-cost Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and computers/devices.
  • The Affordable Connectivity Program:  This Federal Program helps low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices.  If your household is eligible, you can receive: 1) up to $30/month discount on your internet service; 2) up toe a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands and 3) a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50).  A household is eligible if:
    • Your household income is 200% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
    • You participate in certain government assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, SSI, FPHA, Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits, Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program or received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year.
    • You live on qualifying Tribal lands of if someone in your household participates in Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance; Head Start; Tribal TANF or Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations.
    • You already receive a Lifeline Benefit.
    • If your child or dependent participates in the Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or is enrolled in a USDA Community Eligibility Provision school.
  • Lifeline: This Federal Program gives people from eligible households a monthly discount on their phone and internet services.  Lifeline benefits can be used separately or in conjunction with the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Telehealth Access Points (TAPs) Resources:  While helping those who can't afford broadband to access it is useful if there is cellular or cable of fiber solution, there still remain areas in the U.S. that simply do not have this infrastructure.  Some creative ways to help people access the internet that have been used include:

  • Making available wi-fi access from schools, libraries, houses of worship and other businesses (or even their parking lots) become access points for individuals.
  • Developing public wi-fi access points in the community such as in an abandoned store fronts or other un-used community facilities.
  • Retro-fitting library study rooms or un-used spaces in schools or store fronts can provide private spaces for those without internet access or with privacy issues in their homes. One can also put in kiosks with devices in areas of the community that do have broadband access and make available devices to be "checked out" is also another way to increase digital equity.

Here are a few resources related to TAPs: