Recently, the federal government has committed to dramatically increasing broadband funding to support the rollout of universal broadband. If implemented thoughtfully, this funding made available for broadband efforts can work to move digital transformation beyond the business world and into the homes of many.
However, as states and municipalities work to understand the implications of broadband initiatives made possible by recent federal grant funding, they must also prioritize the people side of the equation. Universal broadband is only one piece of the larger puzzle. Access to the internet is only impactful if people use it–otherwise, they can’t reap the benefits of broadband. However, introducing people to new technology can be challenging.
Lack of awareness or know-how, preferred learning styles, and resistance to change are just a few things to consider when driving the adoption and usage of any new technology. Change management is a systematic approach for leading the people side of change. The need for change management functions, such as outreach, communications, training, and support, becomes increasingly critical when program success relies heavily on adoption and usage.
The first step toward change is awareness. Before people can use the internet, they must know it is available. With available funding comes a need for community outreach to notify the public of universal broadband efforts. Change management can enhance outreach campaigns to increase the public's awareness of broadband availability while gaining buy-in from the intended users. A program can accomplish both goals by focusing on the benefits of broadband internet specific to a target audience. How will access to broadband benefit these users? If you can successfully illustrate the positive benefits of broadband, you increase the likelihood of user adoption.
Change management can enhance outreach campaigns to increase the public's awareness.
One wide-reaching and immediate benefit of internet access is the availability of telehealth visits. After a sharp increase in 2020 and a gradual leveling-off, telehealth usage is 38 times higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The result is reduced transportation and time-off costs associated with in-person healthcare visits.
The lack of universal internet access has dramatically impacted the education industry. According to the Institute of Educational Sciences, almost half of K–12 public schools in the U.S. provide internet access to students who need it in their homes, and a vast majority of schools offer training on digital literacy for their students. Universal broadband can amplify students' virtual learning abilities and reduce the financial and logistical dependency on schools.
With any change comes the potential for resistance to change. Some people may have never accessed the internet before, while others may have exposure ranging from limited to ample. Given the wide range of potential exposure to the internet, it is natural to expect a wide range of reactions. Kübler Ross' Change Curve Model depicts five stages of grief, including shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Change practitioners have adapted and used this model to understand the phases a person may go through during a change event to help prepare and proactively address these feelings about the change before they occur. From there, practitioners can use targeted change management efforts to shepherd an individual through all the emotional change stages to get everyone to a stage of integration, acceptance, and ultimately usage.
Be prepared to meet people where they are. Due to the wide array of potential exposure and knowledge of the internet, change management places an increased emphasis on meeting people where they are. We cannot assume a one size fits all approach when educating people on accessing and using the internet. Focus on determining how people learn, how they wish to receive information, and how in-depth the information needs to be. Then, you can adapt and tailor your educational approach to increase the likelihood of a successful change integration.
P&N's Change Management Team has vast knowledge and experience delivering robust training programs focusing on scalable and diversified training options and community outreach. Through successfully implementing change management practices (outreach, communications, training, and support), states and municipalities can not only transform the world of internet access, but they can also transform the lives and opportunities of their residents.
Contact us to discuss how our change management professionals can help drive your broadband initiatives toward successful internet adoption and usage.