Digital Navigator position to teach Forest County residents all about basic computer and internet skills

Millions of dollars are being put into building and improving broadband infrastructure in rural Wisconsin.

But what good is having internet if you can’t afford it or even know how to access and best use it.

Christopher Stark calls them the three A’s of broadband.

“Access, affordability, and adoption. And this grant is really for adoption,” said Stark.

Stark is the Digital Equity Outreach Specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

He wrote the $375,320 grant the Forest County Broadband Committee received to hire, train, and support a digital navigator.

This person will be responsible for traveling around the county and teaching people how to use various digital devices.

“A lot of trial and error throughout the country right now has found out you can give people digital devices, but in many cases, they don’t know how to use them,” said Stark. “They go unused, but we have to be proactive and have to teach these skills.”

It will also go beyond that to ensure people know how to safely navigate the internet and don’t fall victim to scams.

The Forest County Broadband Committee was one of 18 groups in the country to receive grants through the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. The money is part of a $10 million initiative from Google.

It was chosen in-part because of the two tribal communities within the county.

The goal is to make sure everyone in the county has the skills to navigate the internet for everything ranging from telehealth visits to online shopping.

“It’s sort of like the electricity of the 1930s and 40s. You had lived without forever, but it was such tremendous advantage to have. I don’t think anyone could imagine not having electricity in this day and age,” said Stark.

Stark says the Digital Navigator position will be posted soon to start accepting applications.

He’s hoping someone who knows the Forest County community well will apply.