Dramatic shifts in how information and communications are enabled and disseminated via the Internet demand an expanded vision of literacy to ensure all people in the United States, regardless of age, native language, or intellectual capacity, are able to fully participate in the digital age. “Digital literacy” has emerged as a broad term to encompass information literacy abilities “requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information”, as well as competencies in creating content, reflecting on one’s own conduct and social responsibility, and taking action to share knowledge and solve problems. Digital literacy also is associated with the ability to use computers and other devices, social media and the Internet. Digital literacy itself is an emerging concept but there needs to be a common understanding of the parameters it covers.
The March 2010 release of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) brought new attention to digital literacy as an essential element to ensuring all Americans benefit from opportunities afforded by broadband access. According to the plan, about one-third of the population does not have a broadband Internet connection at home. Digital literacy-related issues were identified as key barriers to adoption in addition to access and cost.
Federal, state, and local government agencies; community-based organizations; educational institutions; public policy organizations; and foundations recognize that our society is at a critical juncture with regard to the changing information landscape and competencies needed to thrive in the digital environment. How we, as an organization and a nation, respond to the challenges will have a lasting impact on education, economic development, civic engagement, and global competitiveness.
Our nation’s school, public and higher education libraries are an essential part of the solution.