Digital Literacy & Digital Equity

Many of us appreciate the importance of digital literacy in our increasingly connected world. But we must also consider the role digital equity plays in digital literacy. Digital equity is a term that goes hand-in-hand with digital literacy. In order for us to have strong digital literacy skills, we require access to digital technologies and resources. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the inequities in digital inclusion. Those who have access to digital technologies and strong internet connections are better able to maintain social connections, jobs and education during times of physical restrictions.

“Digital equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.” – National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA)

Digital inequity contributes to what is known as the digital divide. This is the gap between those who have the required digital literacy skills, affordable internet access and the tools needed to engage in online society, and those who don’t.

“… the digital divide prevents equal participation and opportunity in all parts of life, disproportionately affecting people of color, Indigenous peoples, households with low incomes, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, and older adults.” – NDIA

When learners lost access to in person tutoring, the digital divide became very apparent. It’s important that learners have access to quality devices and software, a stable internet connection, as well as the skills to use these tools effectively.

“In rural B.C., only 40 per cent of rural communities and 38 per cent of Indigenous communities have access to the recommended internet speeds.” – Government of British Columbia

Ways to Help

What are some things you can do to help increase digital equity and literacy for learners while closing the digital divide?

  • Request community resources. If your community does not have a map of safe and free wifi hotspots, request one. Start a petition to address the specific issues your community is facing. Attend city council meetings to present the concerns of the community.
  • Make use of the existing resources. This can include the local schools and libraries that offer free wifi and devices that can be checked out. Support these organizations in their efforts to provide these resources.
  • Find organizations eager to help. There are corporate, non-profit and government connectivity grants and initiatives your community can apply for. Some are listed in the resources below.
  • Check in with learners. Are your learners not showing up to digital meetings? Safely check in (over the phone or in person at a safe distance) and talk about what is preventing their participation. When you know what the problem is, you can target specific resources to help.

It is not the responsibility of individuals to solve systemic problems such as digital inequity. However, these actions can be great first steps to help those suffering from the digital divide and promote positive change. Digital equity paired with digital literacy will enable more equal participation for everyone in our communities. To learn more, check out the resources below.

Resources

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