A newly formed advocacy group, It’sEasierThanYouThink, wants to push digital literacy into the national consciousness as a social and economic imperative and kick the issue up the ladder of governmental priorities.
The heart of the effort of the grass roots organization is a petition drive that urges the Obama Administration to establish a national digital literacy policy. The petition process kicks off September 2 along with a public awareness campaign that includes a series of public service announcement videos intended to reach out to some of the estimated 60 million people in the U.S. who do not use the Internet.
Like the inter-agency DigitalLiteracy.gov website, It’sEasierThanYouThink also intends to become a resource for digital literacy tools, information and programs.
The primary promoters behind the campaign are TRAIL, which produces an online digital literacy training site for jobseekers, and LINK AMERICAS Foundation, which was instrumental in developing the California digital literacy policy framework and the iCALIFORNIA digital literacy awareness initiative.
We are beginning to see a stream, make that a trickle, of programs and initiatives aimed at addressing digital literacy in all of its flavors, from closing the digital divide to stamping out cyberbullying. What we aren’t seeing is any form of coherent integration and coordination between the various local, state, federal, educational, corporate and non-profit attempts to address the problem of digital illiteracy in America.
The closest thing we have to a common denominator is DigitalLiteracy.gov, and that site is little more than a resource repository.
As was noted in this column in 2011, what’s missing is a national mission and a sense of urgency:
…we know what the problem is and we have some ideas on what we need to do, but what’s still missing is a good old-fashioned state of crisis. The rhetoric still makes digital literacy sound like chicken pox or mumps when the urgency is more akin to Ebola or AIDS. What is still not coming through – no doubt because few see the larger problem and therefore no one is sweating it much – is that digital illiteracy is a deadly disease. It is capable of killing a person’s job prospects as certainly as a disabling stroke and can be equally lethal for an entire economy. [Literacy 2.0, May 16, 2011]
The level of urgency has not changed much since then, presumably because there are so many issues that seem so much more urgent. Also, undoubtedly, because the pain and suffering caused by digital illiteracy is mostly invisible. The toll is starting to show in the numbers, but the stats have yet to set off alarm bells loud enough to rouse a distracted public and a dysfunctional Congress.
Maybe a petition will help.
Of course, it’s an online petition. So that means the 60 million people it’s intended to help will most likely not be signing it.
The Digital Age is full of those kinds of ironies.