The digital divide is the gap between those who have affordable access, skills, and support to effectively engage online and those who do not.
Whose job is it to close the digital divide? All of us.
The first week in October is Digital Inclusion Week, https://www.digitalinclusion.org/diw22, and it is a week of awareness, recognition, and celebration. The team at the National Digital Equity Center (NDEC) has been working tirelessly since the fall of 2017 to help close the digital divide in Maine and across the United States. We celebrate the small wins every day as we help more and more people get online by addressing barriers such as affordable broadband, affordable equipment, digital skills training, and public computer access.
In the past year, over 50 organizations have joined NDEC to offer classes at their locations, and more are signing up, https://digitalequitycenter.org/make-a-difference. Organizations such as local libraries, adult education programs, older adult and community centers, and many others. This means that NDEC Digital Skills instructors can reach more adult learners at locations in their communities to participate in over 40 digital skills classes. It means that we can help more families sign up for the FCC Affordable Connectivity Program, https://www.fcc.gov/affordable-connectivity-program, to obtain a discount on broadband. It means that when we have devices available (tablets, desktops, laptops), more folks will have the ability to participate in our digital economy.
As a state and as a nation, ensuring that everyone can be online for school, work, healthcare, and other essential services is a priority. For many of us, technology access is a given. We have become so dependent and accustomed to instantaneously utilizing online resources, it is hard to imagine that not everyone can.
What can you do to help? Become an NDEC volunteer, https://digitalequitycenter.org/join-us/ndec-volunteer-tutor-program/. Volunteers can participate as little or as much as they like; from one hour a week to several hours each month.
Check to see if your community has a Digital Equity and Digital Inclusion Plan, and if not, offer to spearhead efforts to address affordable broadband, affordable equipment, digital skills training, and public computer access. NDEC can help – https://digitalequitycenter.org/resources/digital-equity-digital-inclusion-plans.
Keep informed on the statewide efforts lead by the Maine Connectivity Authority, and their plan to create a state Digital Equity and Digital Inclusion Plan, https://www.maineconnectivity.org/digital-equity.
Promote digital equity. Help your family, friends and neighbors to overcome digital inclusion barriers. Don’t stop until everyone is online. We are Maine. And we are all in this together.