National WIC Association

Understanding How WIC Participants Use Technology and Considering Barriers to Technology Access

Frontline WIC staff report that WIC participants are eager to use technology to access different aspects of the program. However, technology has been introduced in WIC with no comprehensive assessment of the digital skill levels of WIC participants. Optimizing WIC service delivery requires a thorough understanding of the current skills, needs, experiences, and desires of the families served by the program. The needs of WIC participants with the lowest levels of literacy and numeracy, and those of immigrant, refugee, and other backgrounds with limited English proficiency have not always been fully incorporated into new technological offerings. Thus, WIC runs the risk of adopting new technologies without having the data needed to assess its fit to the digital literacy skills of participants. Research to better understand the digital literacy of WIC participants would be valuable.

Out-of-the-box thinking is also needed with regard to how WIC services are delivered. WIC has been progressively embedding technology into all aspects of the program. From EBT/e-WIC to online education, interactive texting, and use of apps and participant portals, the program is moving into the digital world. Evaluation of current technological innovations in WIC is needed. Research is also needed to better understand how WIC participants use technology and how new technologies designed to optimize WIC service delivery take into full consideration barriers to technology access.

Technology can improve WIC clinic operations. Research is needed to explore the feasibility of implementation and the effectiveness of innovations such as online participant screenings prior to in-clinic participant certifications, using electronic documentation (i.e. online paystubs/bills) in the participant certification process, and online nutrition education modules.

Given the pace at which technological advances in WIC are developing, it is important to conduct timely research that considers how WIC can provide appropriate technology options while meeting the needs of WIC participants. As new technologies are being implemented, it is important that evaluation and research help the WIC community learn from early adopters. Additional research is also needed to explore avenues for WIC staff to stay abreast of the latest technologies that may support effective program management and service delivery.