LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN THE DAILY NEWS
SEE ORIGINAL COLUMN IN THE DAILY NEWS HERE.
To the editor:
The Daily News’ April 12 editorial, “Bridging the digital divide,” shines a critical spotlight on the impact of the digital divide in communities north of Boston, and the work of organizations like the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF), which is convening a broad-based effort to provide residents with the digital devices, internet connectivity, and skills training they need to participate in our increasingly digital world.
As the editorial correctly points out, digital inequity existed long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenge is widespread across Massachusetts and the country, and the reality is that “connectivity is as essential to work, education, health and social well-being as water, sewer, electricity and gas service.”
Part of what sets the ECCF’s efforts apart, importantly, from other attempts to bridge the digital divide, is the intentional focus on digital literacy.
Too often, the focus is more narrow — only prioritizing access to digital devices, like laptops and tablets, and internet connectivity. These pieces are critical, but their utility is undermined when people don’t have the skills to use them effectively.
While many of us may take for granted the intuitive use of digital devices and the ability to easily navigate the internet, thousands of our neighbors — particularly BIPOC, seniors, those in low-income households, and those already facing language barriers — may struggle to use digital tools effectively.
Research has estimated that one out of every six American adults is not digitally literate.
That’s why a focus on digital literacy — along with access to devices and the internet — is essential.
In order for all people to participate in the opportunities provided by the digital world — education, work, connecting with loved ones, accessing telehealth and more — access to catered, culturally competent digital skills training is a key piece of the puzzle.
We are glad the ECCF’s effort is intentional in its inclusion of support for digital literacy.
Dan Noyes and Theodora Hanna
The letter writers are co-CEOs of Tech Goes Home, a Boston-based nonprofit working to end digital inequity.