The Technology Learning Collaborative, an association of service organizations from throughout Philadelphia committed to leveraging technology resources to reduce poverty, improve public health, decrease homelessness, mobilize through media, and prepare individuals and communities to be more employable, held its inaugural conference last week at Temple University. The topic for the conference was "Technology and Shared Prosperity: Fighting Poverty through Digital Literacy". The Free Library, along with a number of other city agencies and area nonprofits such as Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO), People's Emergency Center, KEYSPOT, Philadelphia FIGHT, Opportunities Industrial Center, Inc., Clarifi, Philadelphia Works, and PhillyCAM (who live streamed the conference online), participated in the conference and came together to discuss ideas and share resources on fighting poverty and increasing digital literacy.
Many people take for granted the technology that is available to them and that they use on a daily basis, but the digital divide is a very real thing that exists for a large part of the American population. Just reading some of the statistics for Philadelphia alone concerning digital literacy are pretty sobering:
At a staggering 28%, Philadelphia's poverty rate is the highest among the nation's 10 largest cities.
Nearly 1 out of every 2.5 children lives below the poverty line.
Philadelphia's unemployment rate is currently hovering around 10.8%, whereas the country as a whole is around 7.3% currently. Of the jobs that are available in Philadelphia, many do not have the skills or education to secure employment.
Speaking of education in Philly... er, well, that's a whole other story with even more distressing facts.
And finally, more than 40% of Philadelphians lack basic access to the Internet.
Poverty, education, and employment: all of these things are tied together when speaking about digital literacy. The infographic on the right illustrates why it is so important that we all strive for digital inclusion for everyone, not just the technologically privileged. The Free Library offers free computer and internet access in all our neighborhood libraries, online resources such as homework help online, computer classes, career services, and resume workshops, along with our Hot Spots services and Techmobile that help to bring computer access to residents throughout Philadelphia and educate on the importance and value of technology. Many of the organizations at the conference also offer similar services.
I am however afraid sometimes that these messages and information are not getting out to the people who we are really trying to help. Case in point, this blog post contains valuable information that may never reach someone who needs it the most because they lack the access to technology to view it.
Do the answers lie in more hands-on community outreach? More street level advertising throughout the city as a whole? More staffing and funding for organizations?
We're all fighting the good fight and are here to make a positive change in our communities, but there is still a long way to go. With the help and hard work of the organizations that make up the Technology Learning Collaborative, I do think we'll get there though.
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Check back on the Free Library blog soon for an upcoming series dedicated specifically to discussing Digital Literacy!