Transforming lives through digital literacy.


Last week I attended the fifth annual Schools, Health, Library Broadband Coalition (SHLB) conference in Washington, D.C., where I moderated a panel called “Digital Literacy Through Community Anchor Institution Partnerships.” The panel showcased three innovative organizations that use partnerships to foster digital inclusion. You can access the presentations on our slide deck here.

SHLB promotes three strategies to create digitally inclusive communities:

  • Develop the infrastructure for high-speed Internet, with an emphasis on anchor community institutions such as schools, libraries, and health care providers
  • Provide access to the Internet and appropriate devices
  • Deliver technology training and help communities understand why the Internet is relevant

I kicked off the panel by discussing Community Tech Network’s SF Connected and Ready, Set, Connect! programs, which both use robust partnerships to provide digital literacy training.

Kelley Ellsworth, Byte Back’s executive director, spoke about the deep impact her D.C.-based nonprofit has made since 2008, providing basic computer literacy courses and well as more advanced computer training to help students obtain work and function in today’s society. Byte Back offered courses at 23 locations through a partnership with 11 libraries, 10 nonprofits and 2 government agency locations.

Byte Back’s 2014 report documents the program’s outcomes and showed that of the 1,657 students, 78 percent were not employed at the program’s start, 42 percent were homeless or precariously housed, 24 percent had a disability, and 14 percent were ex-offenders. About 75 percent had no computer at home. With a 76 percent completion rate, 82.2 percent of them felt more confident in using the computer, and 43 percent pursued a GED, college degree, certification, or other educational goal. The combined increase in earnings for students reached an estimated $3.4 million.

Portland State University’s Drew Pizzolato talked about the partnerships they developed with libraries across the country and their tool Learner Web, which is a learning support system for adults who want to accomplish specific learning objectives or goals such as earning a GED, improving their English language or other basic skills, increasing digital literacy, transitioning to higher education, preparing for a job, or improving job-related basic skills. They have also partnered with health clinics to help patients gain the digital literacy skills necessary to benefit from their health portals.

Lastly, we heard from Cheptoo Kositany about the Kansas City Public Library’s efforts to build a local Digital Inclusion Coalition. This amazing effort culminated in a Digital Inclusion Summit that brought together 250 people from for-profit, nonprofit, and government agencies. Their Community Report identified ten areas where they intend to focus their efforts.

There is talk that SHLB is considering hosting a California conference, so watch for more information in the upcoming months. In the meantime, if your organization is located and involved in delivering technology training or Internet access in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider attending our monthly Brag & Borrow networking event on the third Thursday of each month. Email us for more information.

Community Partnership: A Strategy for Creating Digital Inclusion

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Kami Griffiths