Calif. Launches a Digital Literacy Campaign

On Wednesday morning, California officially launched the iCALIFORNIA Digital Literacy Campaign, a collaborative effort of government, private sector and community-based organizations that aims to promote and foster digital literacy and digital citizenship among all demographic segments in the state. The launch festivities were conducted at the Workforce and Economic Development Center in Sacramento and webcast on Ustream.

The launch coincided with Digital Learning Day, a nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology.

The iCALIFORNIA campaign will raise awareness of the importance of digital literacy skills and build community engagement through innovative digital literacy and media literacy technologies. Its mission is to energize the economy, increase innovation, enhance competitiveness and improve quality of life in California by equipping the state’s citizens with Digital Age skills, tools and attitudes.

Planned outreach activities for iCALIFORNIA [FAQ] include statewide branding and messaging, local and regional conferences, award programs, contests, an online database of digital literacy programs and resources, research and polling and social media engagement.


The iCALIFORNIA launch activities will feature a demonstration of the beta version of JobScout, an online learning platform that teaches the basic digital literacy skills for finding a job. JobScout leads users on an interactive journey through the key skills and processes of job hunting including fundamentals such as searching job sites, resume writing, submitting online applications and peer-to-peer networking.

Initial funding for JobScout is being provided by a grant from the California State Library. The project is being piloted in nearly 140 library branches in California during the first quarter of 2012. JobScout is being developed by RealPolitech, a digital web strategy consulting firm based in San Francisco. CEO Christina Gagnier was recently interviewed about JobScout on Comcast Newsmakers. The project is being managed by the LINK AMERICAS Foundation.

Ed. Note: Two reactions to the launch: 1. Good for California. 2. It’s about time.

Pew Research finds that about one fifth of people in the United States lack the fundamental digital literacy skills they need to participate fully in the information economy. That figure represents a major loss in productivity and economic potential, not to mention the toll on individuals and families who are falling behind the digital literacy curve. A great many of those other four fifths are not doing so hot with digital literacy either.

Digital literacy long ago transitioned from nicety to necessity. Granted, there are plenty of examples of efforts to improve the digital literacy rates in this country and abroad, particularly in the areas of education and job training. But most efforts so far have been limited in scope, slow to gain traction and uneven in their results.

So why? Why is only one state just now getting around to making a major push with digital literacy? What’s the holdup? What are we waiting for? Most everybody has heard of the digital revolution, right?

It’s not that we don’t know what to do. We know the formula for success. a+r+t=dl. Where a=awareness, r=resources, t=training/teaching and dl=digital literacy. 

Sure, reading and writing were pretty slow to catch on, too. But until the last 500 years or so there just wasn’t all that much information lying around that needed literacy skills. Now, we are up to our eyeballs in information. The landscape is littered with new literacies. Digital literacy is a no-excuses no-brainer. We all have to get off our analog butts and adapt to the world we hath wrought.

At this stage of adaptation, we are still woefully short on a, r and t. We don’t have all the factors we need to work the formula.

The iCALIFORNIA campaign is most notable for its intent to make people aware–in business, education, government, healthcare–of the vital importance of digital literacy. If the campaign manages to be heard above the clamor of other messages, it has the potential to put digital literacy on par in importance with textual literacy. It has the potential to cause corporations, government and foundations to cough up the resources that are necessary to supercharge digital literacy teaching and training.

With a little luck, iCALIFORNIA will become a model and set the standards for digital literacy awareness, innovation and inspiration. And if that happens, maybe it won’t be too long before we start to see iKANSAS, iOREGON, iWASHINGTON, iIDAHO, iMAINE and even iTEXAS.

Disclosure: I am anything but neutral on the subject of iCALIFORNIA having worked as a consultant to LINK AMERICAS on the campaign concept, logo and plan. But even if I weren’t involved, I would be biased toward the campaign’s success, as any clear-thinking digital citizen should be.



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