The Importance of Local Digital Literacy Programs in Closing the Digital Divide

Three women working at a shared laptop and pointing to the screenFrom the ability to access education, healthcare, and employment and beyond, everyone understands that internet access is a necessity for modern life. While Maryland ranked 3rd in the country in a recent analysis published in the Harvard Business Review, much work remains to be done to eliminate the digital divide.

Issues of access go beyond availability of infrastructure to other causes behind the digital divide, including affordability of internet service, lack of resources to buy equipment, and digital literacy – which itself is shaped by numerous demographic and socioeconomic factors. The article lays out seven steps policymakers should take to close the digital divide. Many rely on federal action, but the final recommendation is one most effectively implemented at the local level: invest in digital literacy programs.

“Only 40% of American adults can answer basic questions on topics including phishing, privacy, and cookies. Digital literacy is key to improving adoption, combating misinformation and scams, and limiting the risks of cyber-attacks. Public and private-sector initiatives can build on the foundations set by the Accessible and Affordable Internet for All Act that puts aside $60 million in grants to states seeking to bolster digital literacy programs. Lifelong digital proficiency programs — beginning at a young age in the broader education system and continuing through later adulthood on the job — can offer Americans a source of resilience against these threats and make them better consumers of the digital ecosystems. More resources for “digital inclusion funds” and “digital navigators” that already help low-income households and older adults in the use of technology in many cities ought to be scaled-up nationwide.”

At the MACo Summer Conference Tech Expo, an expert panel will discuss an expert panel will highlight current state and federal funding opportunities to expand broadband access, along with next steps needed to deliver high-speed internet to all Marylanders.

The “Closing the Digital Divide: Maryland Takes the Lead” session, hosted by MACo’s Information Technology Affiliate, will be held Wednesday, August 18, 2021; from 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 18-21 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Resilient. Responsive…Ready.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: