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Digital Inclusion Strategy for Detroit

Service Design Project

Design Research | UX Design

Partners- Connect 313, Comcast

January- April 2020

Team- Atulya Sekhar, Brain Ashley, Federico Boga, Wei Hua Huang

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The Project

COVID pandemic laid bare the reality of the digital divide in Michigan, and across the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, even though 79.4% of Detroit households have a computer, only 59.3% have a broadband subscription. The project brief was to design digital inclusion strategies to increase broadband adoption in Detroit


"The issue is not a lack of internet access, but the lack of broadband adoption."

- Joshua Edmonds
  Director of Digital Inclusion, Detroit

The Service: Click Forward

Promoting Digital Awareness and Digital Literacy in Detroit

Storyboard: Atulya Sekhar; Illustrations: Atulya Sekhar and Wei Hua Huang; Animation: Brian Ashley

Understanding the Problem


To understand the issues associated with the digital divide, we did a deep dive through secondary research. It was found that most Detroit residents are online and use the internet for various purposes ranging from information seeking to work-related activities through mobile phones. 

The actual divide exists in subscription to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to equitably access the technological ecosystem. 

Digital Equity: The active process of equitably including residents and organizations into the technological ecosystem. 

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Before diving into the process, it was imperative that we spoke the same language as that of Connect 313 to understand the situation better.


Digital Inclusion:

The active process of equitably including residents and organizations into the technological ecosystem. -Connect 313

Digital Equity: 

The condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential service. -National Digital Inclusion Alliance 

Adoption: the action or fact of choosing to take up, follow, or use something.

Why Digital Inclusion is Necessary

For Access to Fundamental Services


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K-12 students

3+ million 

students in the U.S. have trouble finishing homework due to a lack of internet at home.

(Associated Press, 2019)


of students conduct research online rather than visit the library.


Adults and Continuing education


Accredited Online Degree and Certificate Programs in the U.S.



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19 million 

jobs were created and supported by the internet sector.

(Internet Association, 2018)


of Americans utilized online resources in their job search.

(Pew Research Center, 2017)

4.7 million

Americans work remotely at least half of the time.

(Fastcompany, 2019)


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of Americans seek health information online. 

(JMED, 2010)

Between 2016-2019, virtual health visits grew from

14%- 28%



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Pay property taxes
Water bill

Get discounts on parking tickets

Find local information about trash/recycling


Get information on your home and your neighborhood

Know your city council member 


of Americans cited digital
banking as their primary
method of banking. 


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users of social media express opinions on political & social issues compared to 34% of all Americans. (Pew Research Center 2018)


of Americans think social media gives a voice to underrepresented groups.
(Pew Research Center 2018)


African-Americans think the internet helps shed light on rarely discussed issues.
(Pew Research Center  2018)

Situation in Detroit








Median Income




Homes with a broadband connection in Detroit



Broadband coverage in the city of Detroit

- Data Driven Detroit (2017)

State of Detroiters

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Children under 18

47.4% of families with children live below poverty.

40.7% do not have broadband at home.

21.8% own a smartphone with no other computing device.

13,760 do not have broadband at home.

20,878 do not own a computer.

25,071 do not have broadband at home.

8552 do not own a computer.

Qualitative Research


do not adopt

Perception about ISP

Lack of Digital Literacy

Cost of Subscription

Device Shortcomings

"Phone fulfills the purpose"

With Community Ambassadors at COMCAST

In our attempt to understand the existing services provided by low-cost ISPs, we conducted interviews with the Community Ambassadors for the Internet Essentials by Comcast. They helped us understand the process of signing up, their outreach program, and their understanding of adopters and non-adopters. They also shed light on why people do not adopt.

With Non-Adopters in Detroit

People in Detroit often depend on public Wifi to access the internet. Therefore we made observations at the Parkman Public Library and some public spaces. The library offered help in skill training, job search, resume building, and research for school work. People visited the library to use not just the internet, but also computers as phones could not satisfy these needs. 

Qualitative Interviews+ Quello Study, 2018 (Quello Center, MSU)

Ideation and Service Design

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A co-creation session planned with Detroiters was canceled due to the lockdown. We leveraged the secondary research, the qualitative research, and our understanding of Detroit's people from the previous projects to design a concept for our partners. The Service concept included service blueprint, user journey, user flows, actors map, business model, and branding. The challenge was to work as a team with members in three different time zones. Through this project, we learned to brainstorm virtually, bring together different ideas, and communicate them to the partners in creative ways. 

The Approach

The Concept

To promote digital awareness and literacy to increase adoption.

"Gaining from learning something."

People willing to adopt can use the service to log in, learn, and earn rewards. Volunteers and successful adopters become part of the service becoming advocates for adoption. 

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Key Elements of the Service

Community Hotspots

These are the locations in the community where the non-adopter engages with the advocates. A hotspot can be school, shops, markets, neighborhoods, and community events where they can see the service in action.

Broadband Advocates

They are the users who have enjoyed the benefits of broadband. They help to promote the service in the community.

The Digital Link Portal

This helps new users to sign up, use services tailored for them, and reap the benefits of completing training or hitting milestones of digital literacy.

Service Design Tools

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User Journey

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