Digital Literacy and Outreach are as Important as Physical Infrastructure, Panel Hears

Coverage Type: 

Broadband advocates argued that outreach and digital literacy are as important as infrastructure and are necessary to close the digital divide. National Digital Inclusion Alliance Executive Director Angela Siefer explained during a Protocol event April 21 that the government’s considerations need to extend beyond the deployment of physical broadband infrastructure and should be equally focused on addressing digital literacy and adoption efforts in underserved and unserved communities. Siefer listed several pitfalls that are often overlooked and only broaden the digital divide. Among them, she listed fees tied to digital literacy, such as securing devices to access the internet and the tech support necessary to make them usable. Additionally, she addressed the lack of trust that exists between historically underserved or unserved communities. “We have to understand the reasons that folks would not take free internet,” Siefer said about previous adoption programs. “I think we learned that lesson again and again at the height of the pandemic when lots of folks were trying to solve the affordability issues [by] paying for community members’ internet, and community members were saying ‘no,’ and they just walk away because free internet sounds like a scam.” She said that those running programs designed to help these communities have to consider the unique issues facing each community and then evaluate who the communities trust and how best to get information to them.

Digital Literacy, Outreach as Important as Physical Infrastructure, Panel Hears