Digital literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), lack of this vital skill is one of the top three reasons Americans don’t use PCs and the Internet, with 46 percent of non-users responding that they lack the necessary skills. Fortunately for those who are on the wrong side of the digital divide, there are many resources to help them better function in the digital world.
Closing the Gaps
We live in a world where 80 percent of teachers give homework online, and more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies only accept online applications. Further, CNN Money reports that the unemployment rate for African Americans is currently double that of the national average, 13.8 percent vs. 7.9 percent. Additionally, the wealth gap between whites and African Americans is staggeringly large, with African Americans averaging a wealth accumulation of just over $28,000 versus $265,000 for whites.
In a time where the demographics of our nation are shifting, we cannot allow these trends to continue. Broadband, and especially mobile broadband, are the keys to closing this gap, and gaining digital literacy is the first step in mastering these resources. If you know better, you do better.
Connect Today, Change Your Tomorrow; EveryoneOn; and DigitalLiteracy.gov are three resources that can help these digital have-nots know better. Two of these resources are focused on the non-users by overcoming barriers to use, which include cost, relevance, and digital literacy. The third resource will enhances already present digital literacy level. All three resources are free, and are public programs or the result public-private partnerships.
Connect today, Change Your Tomorrow
Connect Today, Change Your Tomorrow is an initiative that was created by the Broadband Opportunity Coalition, which includes the NAACP, One Economy, and the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. Connect Today aims to create relevant programming, provide online training, and connect people with local Internet Service Providers and local training centers with the goal of getting non-users online and new users fully engaged.
Connect Today achieves its goals through online tools and dynamic programing on pic.tv, its online channel that airs shows such as Diary of a Single Mom and Los Americans. Connect Today also features the Beehive, which was turned into a movie by the same name and aired on BET recently.
EveryoneOn.org is a website dedicated to teaching those with no Internet skills how to use the Web, with the goal of inspiring the 62 million Americans who currently do not use the Internet. The EveryoneOn.org program focuses on areas that would be most helpful to new users, which include tools to find jobs, ways to communicate with family and friends, and tools to save money, as well as access to education and government programs. Additionally, EveryoneOn is a tool for online digital training or finding free training classes in local areas for those who want to either learn or teach how to use the Internet.
EveryoneOn.org was created by Connect2Compete, a partnership that aims to eliminate the digital divide by providing high speed, low-cost Internet and computers and free digital literacy training to all Americans; and the Ad Council, non-profit organization that produces, distributes, and promotes public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government.
DigitalLiteracy.gov was created by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in collaboration with the Department of Education and other federal agencies. DigitalLiteracy.gov augments NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, a Recovery Act grant program that is investing in projects to expand Internet access and adoption in America.
Those new to technology can use DigitalLiteracy.gov to share and enhance the tools necessary to learn the computer and Internet skills needed in today’s digital work environment. The website provides tools for online learning on a wide range of basic and intermediate skills in Microsoft Office applications, computer basics, Internet basics, and social media. Users can learn everything from online security to job skills.
Helping our Communities Know and Do Better
To function in our 21st century society, it is becoming increasingly vital to understand how to navigate the digital world. Thanks to these three programs, and many others like them, millions of disadvantaged Americans now have the resources they need to take full advantage of broadband and related technology. We encourage those who are already connected to share the gift of knowledge with the underserved and direct them to these resources that can drastically improve their lives.
For more information on Connect Today, Change Your Tomorrow, visit ChangeYourTomorrow.org or call 1-866-765-9118
For more information of EveryoneOn, visit EveryoneOn.org or call 1-855-EVRY1ON (1-855-387-9166)
For more information on DigitalLiteracy.gov, visit its website
Dorrissa D. Griffin, Esq., is a Staff Attorney for the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, where she works on matters that focus on the advancement of civil rights for minorities and women in the nation’s media and telecommunications industries. She graduated this year from the Florida A&M University College of Law.