Digital Literacy Is a Piece of Digital Inclusion
I was asked yesterday why digital inclusion is often equated with digital literacy. I think the answer lies in our experiences and how we define the problem. If we are accustomed to teaching folks how to use a computer then the obvious answer to digital exclusion is to teach digital literacy. The limitations of this approach is that we are not discussing the importance of home broadband access, the reasons folks may not have a computer at home and how to solve home broadband access.
Focusing on digital literacy also skips over folks who may have a computer but cannot afford broadband access and need convenient, comfortable, safe locations from which to access the internet on their own computer. Convenient, comfortable and safe means we must do better than free wifi at libraries and McDonalds.
Another reason digital inclusion is referred to simultaneously as digital literacy is the current lack of coordination between various digital inclusion efforts. It is very common for technology training classes, broadband infrastructure projects, community wireless projects, broadband adoption projects, and computer refurbishing programs (who all operate in the same city/region) to not be aware of or be in conversation with each other.
Solutions include conversations of what “digital inclusion” is, and the sharing of resources to support communities figuring out their digital inclusion plans. The Building Digital Communities suite of resources (funded by IMLS) is a fabulous start. We also need to know which communities are working collaboratively to engage all their residents online and we need to share the resources created by these forward thinking communities (community mapping surveys, stakeholder engagement gatherings, digital inclusion plans, marketing materials, etc).
Building Digital Communities: Pilot is one effort at gathering and sharing digital inclusion resources. I look forward to seeing more efforts develop. And I look forward to working collaboratively with them.