Since the New York Times article “Wasting Time is New Digital Divide” posted on May 29, 2012, we’ve been getting a number of questions along the lines of, “Hey, so is ALA working with the FCC on the digital literacy corps?” We thought it a good idea to give a little primer on exactly what ALA has been doing on digital literacy.
Our involvement actually started way back when the FCC was collecting information to create the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the FCC plan which deals with improving broadband Internet access throughout the United States. We submitted comments to several public notices, including one asking questions about broadband adoption. We also worked with the Social Science Research Council, which was commissioned to research broadband adoption in low-income communities, to put them in touch with libraries in their target areas. The NBP made a number of recommendations related to improving broadband adoption, taking into consideration identified barriers of cost, availability, relevancy, and digital literacy. One of the recommendations was to create a digital literacy corps after the AmeriCorps model. To date, this has not been pursued.
Since the release of the NBP, the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy has stayed involved with both the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NITA) and the FCC as both agencies have begun implementing recommendations made in the NBP. Among these were the creation of the digitalliteracy.gov portal last spring and the launching of the Connect 2 Compete initiative last fall.
To the issue brought out in the Times article, ALA submitted comments to the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) on a proposal to fund digital literacy training through libraries and schools using savings realized from Lifeline program reforms. The FCC proposes to fund formal digital literacy training at $50 million per year over four years. This proceeding is ongoing, though the comment period is closed.
ALA continues to advocate for libraries in this proceeding, knowing that libraries offer a formidable “triple play” of assets to support learners in gaining the digital skills necessary to thrive online.
Larra Clark and Marijke Visser