Forest County Digital Navigator helps people learn the ins and out of the internet and digital devices
Wisconsin is set to receive $1 billion in federal funds to help expand broadband.
Forest County is working to ensure people know how to access the internet.
Steve Watson started as Forest County’s Digital Navigator at the beginning of this year. The role has several functions.
The main idea is that Watson helps people access the internet, find affordable internet, and access and know how to use devices that connect to the internet.
“Things I’ve seen the most are a lot of issues with smartphones. People being like, ‘How do I use this app?’ or ‘Hey. My phone is acting up. I’ve got too many apps installed in it. It’s not working properly. How do I fix that?’ A lot of times they give you the phone at the store, but they don’t show you how to use it,” explained Watson.
Watson travels around Forest County to libraries and events showing people how to navigate our digital world.
One of the greatest challenges in his job is the broadband infrastructure or lack thereof.
“The infrastructure just doesn’t exist at this point. I know Bug Tussel does a lot of work in this area trying to build out that cable infrastructure network. Hopefully, with all this stuff that’s going on at the county and at the state level, we’ll start seeing some of that money coming in for more fiber and internet options in the community.”
A 2020 study ranked Forest County 68 out of Wisconsin’s 72 Counties for rural broadband access.
The county is in the middle of a $7.7 million broadband project.
Watson says people will have to be patient as that project finishes up and additional funding comes through for more work throughout the state.
“It probably is going to take a lot of time to build that infrastructure,” he said.
In the meantime, Watson continues to help people access the internet is available and make them feel comfortable using the devices.
“The people that we’ve worked with that this has been offered. It’s been really rewarding in that respect. Seeing the light in people’s eyes as, ‘Hey this is working now. Hey, I understand this.’ Or ‘This has really changed something for us.’ That’s really rewarding,” said Watson.
Watson goes around to different libraries, attends events, and can set up one on one time with people.
You can view the Forest County Digital Navigator Facebook page to find upcoming events.
People can also contact Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 784-1415.
The services are free, paid for by a National Digital Inclusion Alliance Grant.