In January of 2022, the Maine Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report titled Digital Equity as a Civil Right in Maine.
I was honored to participate as a digital equity expert to the Maine Advisory Committee (Committee) and provided the Committee with the definition of digital equity: a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Additionally, I shared the challenges faced by Maine citizens, the same challenges we see across the country, and spoke to the efforts that the National Digital Equity Center (NDEC) has in place to address them.
In 2018, prior to the onslaught of COVID, NDEC created a program specific for Maine residents that provides greater access to the components necessary to achieve digital equity. Components include the ability to connect to affordable broadband, access to affordable equipment to use the internet, digital literacy training, and public computer access. NDEC now has over 40 classes offered every month in an online interactive format. NDEC also offers onsite classes at partner locations throughout Maine. Before participating in our free classes, each participant must be enrolled with the National Digital Equity Center at www.digitalequitycenter.org/enroll.
The National Digital Equity Center also utilizes community planning grants to encourage communities to discuss why they would like broadband, how they are going to get it, how they’re going to promote digital inclusion, and how they are going to use digital literacy to make sure people in their community not only have access to the broadband but will use it to participate in our digital economy. NDEC works directly with Maine towns and cities to create and execute a Digital Equity & Digital Inclusion Plan.
- A plan includes designing intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional, and structural barriers to access and technology use.
- NDEC analyzes the community or region’s demographics and reviewing the data to recommend a digital literacy/computer skills plan for the community or region.
- Plan may include a digital skills training plan for Business Growth & Support; Tourism; Aging in Place; and Residential Resources.
- The plan will also include what options are available for affordable broadband, affordable equipment and where public computer access may be available in a community or region.
The Committee’s diligence in understanding of the importance of providing all citizens with reliable broadband, devices, digital skills training, and adequate funding was reflected in the report’s final recommendations. Finding #1 supports the continued need to fund and provide more digital literacy training.
Finding: There is a significant lack of training available in Maine to promote digital literacy. Digital literacy assessment and skills training play a critical role in technology and workforce skills development that increase employability of program participants, improve job-seeking skills, and create a more highly skilled, job-ready workforce across Maine. Therefore, it is essential to expand access to digital literacy training.
For more information on how the National Digital Equity Center can work with your community or region, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-259-5010.