The digital divide not only refers to the gap in high-speed Internet access between the certain demographics, particularly low-income households and racial minorities, but also refers to imbalances in the resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen.
In order to accomplish digital inclusion, states need tolook beyond simply investing in physical infrastructure. Low incomeindividuals and people of color, groups that are frequently disenfranchised inother parts of society, often have fewer opportunities to gain essentialdigital skills. Aside from being left out of the technological age,individuals without necessary digital skills may soon find themselvesunqualified for many employment opportunities. Mostworkforce professionals acknowledge the critical role that IT skills -- everythingfrom basic literacy to more dynamic “knowledge economy” skills -- play insuccessful job seeking. Today,according to Department of Labor statistics, over 80% of newjobs will require computer skills. Past studies have shown that there is a great mismatch between adultsentering the labor market and the technology skills that are required for work.
Along with high-speed Internet adoption, states need toaddress these issues of digitalempowerment and digital opportunity,including the need to provide essential work force training, funding community technology centers whereresidents can gain digital skills, and support for alternative media where theexcluded can have their voices heard in the digital civic debate. Technologyliteracy programs should focus on providing the necessary skills to bridge notonly the digital divide, but the social and economic divide in states,including employment skills, financial literacy, economic self-empowerment andhow to access civic information.
Core Policies To Help Increase Technology Literacy and Inclusion Policies:
Strengthening the national network of community technologycenters will create real-world technology training for the nextgeneration. CommunityTechnology (CT) is the purposeful use of computers, Internet, and digitalcommunication systems by non-profit and community-based organizations toenhance the delivery of mission in a way that helps people develop technologyliteracy skills through beneficial, hands-on interaction with technology.
Some states such as California, Illinois,NorthCarolina andOhio, have established a fund or council to address the digital divide. WashingtonState has recently taken aggressive steps to increase digital literacy. The Washington State legislature allocated $500,000 to supportWashington's Community Technology programs. SenateBill 6438 created a statewide high-speed Internet development process andestablished the Community Technology Opportunity Program (CTOP) that willprovide resources for capacity-building forand grant-giving to Community Technology programs that provide hands-ontechnology access and training to residents. Additionally, the legislationdevelops a high-speed Internet deployment and adoption strategy through amulti-sector work plan, as well as a statewideweb directory of Community Technology programs will be developed.
In order to ensure residents obtain thenecessary training to be successful in the 21st century, statesshould:
- Promote a healthy nonprofit community able to train and support low-income residents to participate in a digitally inclusive society.
- Promote computer donation programs.
- Promote an emergent, technology-enabled entrepreneur and small business sector.
- Ensure every child is technology-skilled to access, apply, as well as produce digital information in relevant and beneficial ways.
- Have effective partnerships around community technology success with aligned and interested groups, including business and other private sector players, and encourage the appropriate level of reinvestment of Telecom/Technology sector resources for digital inclusion, work skill training and related purposes.
Children are tomorrow’s workforce. Therefore, it is imperative that intheir education, they receive instruction on necessary digital skills. In orderto ensure that children from all backgrounds receive the necessary training tobe able to participate in an increasingly digital world, states should promotedigital skills as a priority for children. Digital literacy programs should be integrated intoclassrooms, after-school programs, and at libraries or other places childrenspend their time. In order toincrease digital literacy among children, states should:
- Equip children with digital tools at home. Provide financial incentives to help low-income families acquire home computers and affordable high-speed Internet; and encourage their use at home to pursue educational, health, and other opportunities for youth.
- Support parents in today's technology-based world. Support the development of model digital literacy efforts, and other technology training to help parents guide their children wisely in the online world.
State money should support public access channels andalternative online media to amplify the voice of marginalized andunder-represented communities in our democracy. Continuing support for public,educational and governmental (PEG) access channels, some of the onlyremaining media outlets that broadcast local voices and cover local issues,will allow for targeted programming by and for particular segments of thecommunity that might not be served by major outlets. States shouldalso teach residents how to utilize newtechnological mediums as a vehicle to be heard. Advances in high-speed Internettechnology will open up ways for local communities to create online content,with dozens if not hundreds of audio and video streams. Unfortunately, much of the legislation beingproposed in statehouses threatens the existence of such a potentially powerfullocal medium.
Time - Citizensof the New Digital Democracy
Center forDigital Democracy
Educause Paper - ABlue Print for Big Broadband
Centerfor Creative Voices in Media