Beyond investing in physical infrastructure, states need to invest in education and community media infrastructure to overcome the digital divide. The digital divide not only refers to the gap in broadband adoption between different demographics, but also refers to imbalances in the resources and skills needed to participate as a digital citizen in the 21st century. Groups frequently disenfranchised in other parts of society, such as lowincome individuals and minorities, often have fewer opportunities togain essential digital skills.
AT&T's new cutting-edge television service, U-Verse, is creating frustration for community programming advocates and being investigated by both state and federal officials. After receiving a large number of complaints, Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, launched an investigation into the U-Verse system's underminging of access to PEG channels (i.e. Public Education and Government stations).
State money should support public access channels and
alternative online media to amplify the voice of marginalized and
under-represented communities in our democracy.Continuing support forpublic,
educational and governmental (PEG) access channels, some of the only
remaining media outlets that broadcast local voices and cover local issues,
will allow for targeted programming by and for particular segments of the
community that might not be served by major outlets.
Children are tomorrow’s workforce. Therefore, it is imperative that in
their education, they receive instruction on necessary digital skills. In order
to ensure that children from all backgrounds receive the necessary training to
be able to participate in an increasingly digital world, states should promote
digital skills as a priority for children. Digital literacy programs should be integrated into
classrooms, after-school programs, and at libraries or other places children
spend their time.
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.
The digital divide not only refers to the gap in high-speed Internet access between the certain demographics, particularly low-income households andracial minorities, but also refers to imbalances in the resources and skills needed to effectivelyparticipate 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:
The future is very uncertain for public, education and government (PEG) channels.Theselocal channels have traditionally been carried by cable companies as apublic service to highlight local community and public voices. Historically, PEG channels have been receivable on both analogand digital service, ensuring that PEG stations were accessible by anyindividual with a television, regardless of income level or cablepackage. Now that the Digital TV transition is just around the corner, the question is what happens to these channels.