A recommendation to:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a public notice seeking comments on who or what organizations should be involved in implementing a nationwide Digital Literacy program.
Status: In progress
The federal government should launch a National Digital Literacy Program that creates a Digital Literacy Corps, increases the capacity of digital literacy partners and creates an Online Digital Literacy Portal.
- Congress should consider providing additional public funds to create a Digital Literacy Corps to conduct training and outreach in non-adopting communities.
- Congress, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should commit to increase the capacity of institutions that act as partners in building the digital literacy skills of people within local communities.
- Congress should consider providing additional public funds to IMLS to improve connectivity, enhance hardware and train personnel of libraries and other Community-based organizations (CBOs).
- OMB consulting with IMLS should develop guidelines to ensure that librarians and CBO s have the training they need to help patrons use next-generation e-government applications.
- Congress should consider funding an Online Digital Literacy Portal.
The federal government should ensure that all citizens have access to the online and offline resources they need to develop basic digital literacy by launching a National Digital Literacy Program. Such a program would have three closely related parts: 1) the creation of a Digital Literacy Corps, 2) a commitment to increasing the capacity of local institutions that act as partners in building digital literacy and 3) the creation of an Online Digital Literacy Portal.
1) Creating A Digital Literacy Corps
Congress should consider providing additional
public funding for the National telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to create a Digital Literacy Corps.
In collaboration with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), NTIA should design and administer a Corps that builds on recognized best practices for both national service and technology learning.
NTIA and CNCS can explore best-practice models for building and managing the Corps, leveraging lessons learned from existing programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America.
CNCS can also leverage its own experience with the digital television transition, during which it made sure that AmeriCorps members were in communities across the country helping individuals become more comfortable with unfamiliar technology.
CNCS can provide additional lessons on how to build the national scale and operational capabilities (including recruitment,
training and technical assistance) to support locally based efforts to provide face-to-face assistance for individuals who need help acquiring digital skills.
This training should ensure that Corps members gain a sufficient understanding of digital literacy and learn how to teach relevant lesson plans. It should also be designed to improve Corps members' own digital literacy skills, as well as other professional skills that can enhance future career prospects.
The Corps should target segments of the population that are less likely to have broadband at home, including low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, senior citizens, people with disabilities, those with lower education levels, people in rural communities, those on Tribal lands and people whose primary or only language is not English.
Efforts should be made to recruit members with foreign language skills who can work in communities where the primary language spoken is not English.
2) Providing Resources for Digital Literacy Partners
IMLS should develop guidelines for public access technology based on populations served and organization size. These guidelines would help libraries and CBOs assess their needs for public access workstations, portable devices and bandwidth.
IMLS should work with these organizations to develop guidelines and review them annually to reflect changing technology and practices.
After public access technology guidelines are developed, Congress should consider providing additional public funds to expand organizational training and capacity—with a matching requirement and minimum percentage set aside for organizations other than libraries. These funds would enhance connectivity, hardware and personnel training at libraries and other public access points and shorten the wait for broadband access at those sites.
Training the Personnel of Digital Literacy Partners
OMB should consider developing guidelines to help federal agencies develop e-government services that take into account
the role of public libraries and CBOs as delivery points.
OMB should consult with IMLS to develop the guidelines.
Agencies should work with IMLS to develop online tutorials for using government websites and toolkits for librarians who help patrons use online government services.
3) Creating an Online Digital Literacy Portal
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), FCC, Department of Education and NTIA should launch an Online Digital Literacy Portal.
Congress should consider providing public funds to support this effort, and these agencies should partner with the technology industry and education sector to approve or create high-quality online lessons that users can access and use at their own pace.
The collaboration between the agencies and non-government partners should be similar to the efforts that have produced the online safety resources available through OnGuardOnline.gov.
Offline resources should be made available for printing or ordering and distributed by libraries, CBOs and other organizations.
Executive Branch agencies such as HUD and NTIA should also use existing relationships—for example, with Neighborhood Networks and Public Computing Center grant recipients—to distribute outreach materials associated with the Online Digital Literacy Portal.
E-rate recipients should also be encouraged to promote the portal.
The Online Digital Literacy portal should be evaluated after two years to assess its impact. The evaluation should consider,
among other metrics, the total number of individuals accessing the portal, the number of individuals from specific target populations accessing the portal and the effectiveness of different offline resources in promoting the portal.