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Bridging the Digital Divide: Empowering Oregon’s Vulnerable Populations through the Oregon Digital Safety Net


The Oregon Digital Safety Net (ORDSN), a banner project of the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO), aims to bring the power of technology to vulnerable populations facing significant social, economic, mental, and physical health barriers.

Founded by Portland-based visionaries Carol Coye Benson and Siva Narendra, the ORDSN supports those experiencing homelessness, economic instability, and other societal challenges through Evergreen Connectivity. By providing permanent phone numbers, email addresses, digital vaults, and even scanned mail support to those in need, this program seeks to ensure that individuals in the midst of crisis remain connected, informed, and empowered.

Evergreen Connectivity

A cornerstone of the Oregon Digital Safety Net initiative,  “Evergreen Connectivity”, separates communication channels from physical devices. Instead, individuals maintain consistent phone numbers and email addresses regardless of the device they are using. This concept is especially important for those who frequently change living situations, face theft or loss of devices, or lack reliable access to technology. By offering stability in communication, the Oregon Digital Safety Net provides a foundation for individuals to prosper.

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Digital Equity

The challenges faced by vulnerable populations are complex and multifaceted. Recognizing this, the Oregon Digital Safety Net works directly with a handful of houseless advisors and multi-county direct service support workers to explore solutions. By understanding the unique needs and concerns of these populations, the ORDSN aims to refine its services and ensure they are genuinely impactful. The key areas ORDSN, and Evergreen Connectivity, aims to support critical needs like economic stability, access to education, access to healthcare, and access to physical mail.

  1. Economic Stability: The program helps individuals access jobs and housing by providing them with consistent phone numbers and email addresses to connect with potential employers, housing agencies, and other essential services.
  1. Access to Education: Evergreen connectivity ensures that families experiencing poverty or instability can stay connected with schools, access educational resources, and communicate with teachers.
  1. Access to Healthcare: Through stable communication channels, this program helps individuals maintain contact with medical providers, schedule appointments, and access important healthcare information. 
  1. Neighborhood and Built Environment: The program’s focus on stability extends to physical mail as well. Scanning and forwarding mail can greatly benefit individuals experiencing homelessness or frequent address changes, ensuring they receive important documents and notifications, especially those related to housing.

Building a Stronger Oregon Community Through Digital Inclusion

By ensuring that marginalized individuals have the tools they need to succeed, the Oregon Digital Safety Net can support strengthening economic prospects and foster a sense of belonging and dignity.

As ORDSN launches its Stage 1 Pilot, in partnership with funders, coders, and a multitude of volunteers, the program paves the way for a future where technology becomes an equalizing force. Through strategic partnerships, community engagement, and unwavering commitment, the team at ORDSN hopes technology can truly be a bridge to a brighter future for all Oregonians.

Learn more about the Oregon Digital Safety Net at Contact Development and Partnership Coordinator, Sarah Koski, for more information about getting involved and supporting this important and support of our members, with whom we could not do this important work without.

Published On: October 6, 2023
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