SAF Computers and Connectivity Project

During the 2018 season, SAF secured funding from the North Carolina Farmworker Health Program to provide computers and Wi-Fi hotspots at four labor camps to increase access to resources and to facilitate communication with families back home to positively impact the mental health of the farmworkers.

Process:
In May and June of 2018, SAF installed a desktop computer with Spanish language keyboard, Wi-Fi hotspot, headphones and splitters, and a lock and trained farmworkers on how to operate the computers and utilize the uploaded resources. Resources included occupational health videos, employee rights videos, English as a Second Language materials, and the Conectate Carolina app for information on local resources. Workers also learned how to connect to their families through Facebook or WhatsApp. Each camp received a computer manual/book in Spanish and created a group charter to address how to use and share the computer. Additionally, SAF interns made two visits per camp to conduct theater and documentary activities and discussions about mental health and computer use with about 115 farmworkers.

Evaluation:
SAF contracted with an external evaluator with the main goals of the evaluation to:
1. Improve the design and implementation of behavioral health and technology interventions with farmworkers
2. Assess the impact of the intervention on farmworkers (e.g., access to resources and communication with family)
3. Build evaluation capacity among SAF staff and Into the Field health fellows.

Four focus groups were held August - September of 2018 (approximately two months after the computers had been installed) with 36 male farmworkers.

Results:
Among those surveyed, 83% used the computer and 94% used the Wi-Fi from their phones and most used both.

“When we had free time, we would gather here to watch movies instead of each person shutting themselves in their room.” – Focus group participants in Roxboro, NC.

“I use it a lot to call my little one [who is two years old]. I can see him with WhatsApp or [Facebook] Messenger. With my mom... with all my family.” – Focus group participants in Dunn, NC.

How much did having a computer improve?

Challenges:

  • Several farmworkers missed the computer training or expressed wanting to use certain resources but not knowing how.
  • The hotspots were limited to 10 devices, though more than 10 farmworkers lived in the labor camps.
  • When many cell phones (10) were connected to the hotspot, the connection was slow.

Conclusions and Recommendations:
The Computers and Connectivity program was well received by all of the farmworkers interviewed and they most appreciated the ability to connect their phones to Wi-Fi to communicate with family members and friends at home. To improve the program in the future, the following is recommended:

  • Prepopulate the computers with Spanish language websites, applications, and videos. Provide more interactive ESL resources with a broader range of vocabulary. Consider providing a table or desk for the computer.
  • Schedule more than one training to reach workers and provide more follow-up to troubleshoot problems.
  • Find a feasible technical solution to allow multiple devices to connect to Wi-Fi without slowing down the connection. Consider limiting streaming and downloading to less popular usage hours.

Read the full report here.