At a public computing center in Baltimore today, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced a digital literacy initiative that works to expand economic and educational opportunities in America. Locke joined U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) in unveiling www.DigitalLiteracy.gov, a new website that provides libraries, community colleges, schools and workforce training centers a variety of resources and tools for teaching computer and Internet skills, which are increasingly necessary for success in today’s economy. Prior to the unveiling, Locke and the senators toured a computer lab and witnessed first-hand how the people in the community are utilizing this website, which can allow any person to find free training on a range of digital literacy topics, at different skill levels, including searching and applying for jobs online.
“In a globalized, 21st century economy, when you don’t have regular access to the high-speed Internet – and the skills to use it – your education, business, and employment opportunities are narrowed,” Locke said. “The tools we are unveiling today will help more Americans gain valuable job skills and augment the Recovery Act investments we are making to expand broadband access and adoption nationwide.”
In partnership with nine federal agencies, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), created www.DigitalLiteracy.gov to provide librarians, teachers, workforce trainers, and others a central location to share digital literacy content and best practices. These trusted groups can, in turn, better reach out to their communities in providing them the skills today’s employers need. NTIA is also partnering with the American Library Association and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote the use of the portal by the nation’s more than 16,600 public libraries where, in 2009, over 30 million job-seekers used computers to search and apply for jobs. In launching www.DigitalLiteracy.gov, NTIA is building on knowledge gained from managing its broadband grants program in order to provide digital literacy resources to all Americans.
“In Maryland and across the nation, people are hungry for good jobs and economic opportunity,” said U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, which funds the U.S. Department of Commerce. “Here at Coppin State University, and across America, with www.DigitalLiteracy.gov, we aren’t just talking about the innovation economy. We’re training people to be a part of it. We’re teaching how to use computer skills to get and keep a good job. With more than $115 million in federal stimulus funds for broadband coming to Maryland, we will not only create jobs, foster growth and spark innovation, but create opportunity for the people of Maryland.”
“Technology is the key to jobs in today’s economy, but more people need access to computers and the ability to use them,” U.S. Senator Ben Cardin said. “Coppin State University’s community computer center is at the forefront of ensuring that Marylanders have the skills they need to succeed and find jobs. This computer center will help make technology more accessible, and the new website – DigitalLiteracy.gov – will provide people with the computer and Internet skills needed for the digital age.”
Secretary Locke announced the new website during a visit to a public computer center at Coppin State University, which is providing broadband access and computer training to residents of the surrounding community in Baltimore. The center is funded by NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a Recovery Act initiative that is investing $4 billion in the construction or upgrade of more than 100,000 miles of broadband networks, enhancing and expanding public computer centers, and implementing programs to encourage broadband adoption among populations where it is lagging. The new website provides a central location where BTOP grantees can upload and share digital literacy training materials with other practitioners and the general public, leveraging the value of these projects.
BTOP is one the largest grant programs ever managed at the Department of Commerce. During Secretary Locke’s tenure, NTIA built a multi-billion dollar program from the ground up and within tight timeframes, ultimately invested in approximately 230 strong projects that will help improve education, health care and public safety in communities across the country.