The Oregon Digital Safety Net
Can you imagine if no one you knew could get in touch with you? If your doctor's office could not reach you, a former employer wanting to offer you a job couldn't make that offer? If a benefit you suddenly qualify for expires because you can't be notified of it? If you don't learn of your sister's serious illness because no-one in your family has a current phone number for you?
It is hard to imagine this. But this is what it means to be digitally excluded - and it is not uncommon for people living in poverty in Oregon today. We tend to think of digital access as a question of having phones - or having internet access, and indeed that is a problem for some people. But we are focusing on a different problem. Today, many people in marginalized populations in Oregon have access to mobile phones - but they rarely have the same phone number for long periods of time. They often don’t have a stable physical address. This means that people and institutions can't get in touch with them. In fact, they risk becoming invisible: employers, landlords, hospitals, doctors, courts, benefits organizations, friends and relatives often can’t reliably reach them. This is digital exclusion.
The Oregon Digital Safety Net (ORDSN) is a not-for-profit initiative designed to solve this problem by providing long-lasting communications capabilities to people in marginalized populations in Oregon. ORDSN is currently a concept being incubated under the championship of the Technology Association of Oregon.