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The ‘Community Tech Workers’: A Community-Driven Model to Support Economic Mobility by Bridging the Digital Divide

The project: The aim of this project is to pilot and assess the feasibility of a “community tech workers model” — a community-driven, “train the trainer” model that equips Detroit residents to provide digital support to community members experiencing digital poverty. Inspired by the transformative community health workers model, the pilot program aims to understand:

  1. In what ways could community tech workers support low-income Detroit seniors (adults ages 60+) experiencing digital poverty in developing their digital skills?
  2. What models can effectively build digital capacity to bridge the digital divide within communities?
  3. What type of training is needed and desired?
  4. What are opportunities to incentivize the sustainability of the community tech worker model?

Participation in the program includes training for workers, which could lead to occupations that do not require advanced degrees, provide a good salary, and are predicted to grow as technology becomes more pervasive. 

The process: As of August 2021, the research team has completed two rounds of community tech worker recruitment and training. Researchers are in the process of surveying community tech workers to learn more about what worked well with the training, how to improve future training, and how to reach a wider audience for community tech worker recruitment. 

The next phase of this project will be to recruit seniors who want to develop their digital skills and deploy community tech workers to support them for four months. 


Tawanna Dillahunt, U-M School of Information

Julie Hui, U-M School of Information

Zachary Rowe, Friends of Parkside