The Do Space Library received funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund from the Federal Communications Commission to conduct the Teck Pack Program in Omaha, Nebraska, between June 30, 2022 to June 29, 2023. As part of the Tech Pack Program, 945 Omaha residents received a computing device and free internet access for one year. Along with this infrastructure, they received computer basics training and technology tutoring. This innovative program directly addresses the challenges experienced by those without access. In the city of Omaha, Nebraska, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2021, over 9,000 households (4.6%) do not have a computer or smart device and over 18,000 households (9.0%) do not have an internet subscription of any kind. The Tech Pack Program alleviated this challenge for one year for some of these households. Do Space partnered with the Center for Public Affairs Research (CPAR) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to evaluate the Tech Pack Program. An online application to the program and three surveys were administered to track participation and outcomes from the program. The survey demonstrates that participants used the Tech Pack Program for work related purposes (17% - 19%); household related activities like paying bills, banking, ordering groceries, or shopping for the households (20% - 22%); getting news and participating in local activities (21% - 23%); creating or fostering relationships with family and friends (14% - 15%); and practicing computing and internet skills (23% - 26%). Over the course of the program many participants became more comfortable using digital devices, navigating the internet, and becoming familiar with computer and internet related terms. A range of questions about the economic security of participants also show that over the course of the program positive gains were made. Respondents reported feeling more in control of their economic future, having stronger economic support networks, and financial situations getting better. One participant shared about the program, “…it has given me a path to my dream career.” Additionally, respondents reported increasingly using the Tech Pack Program to support their health and well-being, including accessing information about cultural events (46% - 55%), learning new skills (42% - 48%), accessing financial services (55% - 61%), and getting health information not related to COVID-19 (52% - 57%), as just some examples. By the last survey, over 65% reported that participating in the program improved their life “a great deal.” Tech Pack Program participants were quick to share their gratitude and satisfaction with the program. Their quotes and open-ended responses demonstrate the overwhelming and positive impact of the Tech Pack Program. Overall, the findings suggest that providing individuals with digital devices and teaching them useful technological skills enables greater opportunity for long-term success. To fully participate in our society, we recognize that digital access and equity is essential. Not only does digital equity ensure access to basic resources critical to social, economic, and physical well-being, but digital equity also enhances the creation of social capital and promotes economic security. This innovative and straightforward program resulting in improvements in the lives of its participants is a model for future programming to overcome the digital divide.
Schafer, Josie Gatti; Vogel, Morgan; Grell, Tara; Hayes, Dan; and Blanco, Felipe, "Do Space Tech Pack Program Evaluation: Improving Digital Access and Equity" (2023). Publications. 657.