Lately, it seems like we’re hearing a lot more buzz about broadband in Minnesota. That’s a good thing. We believe conversations generate action. And we need action. As we read about technology, the words digital inclusion and digital literacy keep cropping up. What exactly do they mean?

Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion is the ability of individuals and groups to access and use information and communication technologies. But digital inclusion is not just connecting everybody to the Internet. It’s so much greater than that. Digital inclusion means:

  • improving the quality of life and creating opportunities for ALL people
  • affordable access to information technology for ALL people
  • economic development of  ALL (even rural) communities
  • increased proficiency in technology skills for ALL people
  • inspiration of lifelong learning

Often broadband discussion tends to focus solely on accessibility. However, digital inclusion is designed to focus on a practical, policy-driven approach that addresses the overall needs of communities.

Digital Literacy

With so many opinions on what exactly digital literacy is, we turned to Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia) for a definition. It cites digital literacy as:

“The ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current high-technology, and an understanding of how it can be used. Digitally literate people can communicate and work more efficiently, especially with those who possess the same knowledge and skills.”

What does this mean? It means simply having broadband access is not enough. People need to learn how to effectively find, use, and communicate information through digital devices. As you can see, this is so much more than just being comfortable using a computer.

In Minnesota, survey results show that low income and senior residents adopt broadband at a rate 20 percent below the state adoption rate (59% vs. 79%). One of the challenges to broadband adoption is helping people understand the relevance in everyday life. From healthcare and safety to social and entertainment, broadband access and the ability to use it can open up a world of opportunities and enhance quality of life for residents of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.

The Digital Divide

The difference between those with basic technology literacy and those without it (a.k.a the “digital divide”) affects us all. As the world evolves even further into a technology-driven society, digital inclusion and literacy ensure that ALL residents—no matter their age, socio-economic background, or geographic location—can fully engage in the economic, educational, social, and civic aspects of living well in Sherburne County.

To join the conversation, visit our website at Sherband.com. We’d like to hear from you!

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