Tips for Digital Inclusion
There has been a lot of talk lately in the library world about digital inclusion, but what exactly is it? And what does it have to do with libraries? You might be thinking this is just one more project, one more thing to worry about. Well, the good news is you are already “doing” digital inclusion! Keep reading to learn more about digital inclusion, and to learn a few ways to increase the impact you already have on your community.
Digital inclusion means that everyone in your community has access to information technology, and they know how to use it. Libraries and Colorado Public Computer Centers are already working towards this goal by providing free access to computers, Internet, and other technologies, and by providing free technology training classes. But what can you do to improve your efforts, collaborate with other stakeholders, and continue to help your community to become more digitally inclusive?
In the IMLS report, Building Digital Communities, seven principles of access and adoption are defined. These principles can serve as a reference as you set goals for technology services, programs, and outreach. Here are just a few examples, taken from the report, of things libraries and public computer centers can do:
- Increase Public Access: Share your mobile laptop lab with other organizations to reach a greater geographic area, while making the most use of available technology.
- Demonstrate Relevance: Provide public programs that demonstrate the benefits of using digital technologies.
- Improve Consumer Safety: Provide accurate, unbiased information about Internet safety in your computer center.
When you plan for digital inclusion, remember to bring stakeholders together early in the process. Stakeholders include government agencies, nonprofit community organizations, businesses, and residents, and are essential to digital inclusion whether you are in a small town or a large city. In a recent blog post, Sarah Washburn, of Tech Soup for Libraries, related stakeholders to the personality types in Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.” She says it is important to have all three types at the table (connectors, mavens, and salesmen), because they complement each other’s contributions to your digital inclusion efforts.
Digital inclusion is a community effort, and it helps to bring everyone to the table before you begin setting your goals. Work together to develop a common vision for the future, and create a community action plan. Focus your efforts on a few areas, and set manageable goals. Enlist you stakeholders to help accomplish the goals - after all, it is building digital inclusion in their community, too.
The bottom line is that we all have to keep working for our communities, to increase digital literacy and to provide equitable technology access to everyone. We are building digital communities, one goal at a time.