Mayo Nissen

Design, etc

Ten Thousand Tablets

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, and particularly impacting older adults, the Mayor's Office of the CTO worked closely with the City's Department for the Aging and public housing authority to distribute ten thousand internet connected tablets to vulnerable seniors living alone in the hardest-hit neighborhoods in the spring and summer of 2020 - areas of the city which are, perhaps unsprisingly, amongst those with the lowest broadband access rates. We worked with T-Mobile to ensure that the tablets were packaged, kitted and pre-configured with the target user in mind, optimizing for a smooth first use: from printed materials in various languages guiding a first time user how to turn the device on, or how to contact telephone support provided by a specialized partner, OATS; each device fully charged and loaded with the SIM; system settings pre-set with larger font sizes and privacy-first security settings; and a custom webapp and landing screen to help users discover how to use the tablet if they were not familiar with this type of technology, and explore what they could use it for, all in an accessible package translated into 12 languages.

We conducted evaluative research while the distribution was underway - remotely, by phone - with a number of tablet recipients, learning about how they were using the recently received devices, painpoints encountered, and hopes and fears for the months ahead.

When I got the tablet I didn’t realize how lonesome I was, without visits from my children. It’s like a connection to the outside, without the fear of catching the virus. The tablet brings you closer to people, without physical contact.
— A NYCHA resident & tablet recipient

Read more about the program:

A map of New York City, with areas of low broadband connectivity highlighted, and bubbles animating in where tablets were delivered.
A visualization of the tablet distribution progress.
A product box marked with the LG logo and model name of the tablet being distributed, open on a desk, with a folded piece of paper branded with the NYC logo placed inside and a shipping label bring prepared.
A tablet being kitted and prepared for distribution by a partner.
A series of screens from the getting started app, showing text in English, Spanish, and Korean
The 'Getting Started' guide was available in 13 languages (human translated in record time), tailored to the specific communities we were sending tablets to. Tablet recipients also had access to training and guidance in English and Spanish, and technical support with simultaneous interpretators available for over 190 languages.


This work was conducted in the spring of 2020, while serving as design lab director at the New York City Mayor's Office of the Chief Technology Officer. Key collaborators included Elyse Voegeli, Rapi Castillo, Justin Isaf Man, Kate A. Hohman, Jen Noborikawa, and the leadership of John Paul Farmer, Katherine Benjamin, and Joshua Breitbart. We worked closely with partners at the NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA), the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), the Older Adults Technology Service (OATS), and T-Mobile.