Digital Inclusion Forum, 12/6/2010

Here are some ideas for panel questions/topics, feel free to post comments with suggestions.

1. For the first time historically, the number of new customers signing up for broadband accounts is stagnant. Cost appears to the be main factor as households scale back on discretionary spending. What effect has the current recession had on the services your program(s) can provide, and the number/demographics of people your program(s) serve? (Has financial support been more challenging to secure? Have you seen a significant increase in program participants? Are you seeing any difference in who’s coming to your program for support?)

2. As we know from our work on this issue, the myriad of issues that affect digital inclusion differ by community—which is why we have so many different approaches within our programs...If we want to influence public policy on this issue, what unifying themes / approaches or messages should we pursue?

3. How do community efforts to address digital inclusion impact “social capital” in underserved communities, and how do we communicate this when we approach funders, policy makers and other stakeholders?

4. What is the role/responsibility of local, state, regional governments to address Digital Inclusion? (How do we make the case that this issue is critical in light of so many competing demands on government during a time of budget deficits?)


  1. Ok,so pretty about this question for practitioners:

    Kevin--your program mostly focuses on youth--do you see disparities in access or tech literacy skills among the kids you work with?

    How do the skills young people are gaining within your programs transferable (work readiness, educational achievement, civic engagement?)

  2. or rather...How ARE the skills...need an edit button here:(

  3. I think the second question about how the skills are transferable is something I could speak to.

  4. Regarding #1... This is the ABE perspective:

    So far state funding for ABE has remained stable. Federal funding decreased a little this year. ABE is seen as key to workforce development so has fared well.
    We have over 1000 learners pass through the doors of the Hubbs Center in St. Paul every weekday. We have waiting lists for classes and an increasing demand for online learning.

    Many of our learners cannot access BBD except through us, or a community centers such as libraries. We have so many learners who do not have access to Internet and computers that we have open labs to support online learning at Hubbs Center and many of the CBOs that do ABE in St. Paul.

  5. Re question #2:

    Access to infrastructure and computers will not bridge the digital divide. New learners - especially those with ABE needs - need support from tutors/mentors, motivational instruction about what they can do with Internet/computers, and opportunities to develop digital skills. Such support must happen given the necessity of applying "primed" digital skills in both post-secondary education and the workforce. Digital Inclusion is key to full civic participation and economic justice in all of our communities.

    Additionally, BBD access (as well as having computers at home) is a crucial need. I don't think the digital divide will shrunk greatly - no matter what is done - until low income people have ready access, in their homes, to computers and BBD.

  6. Re Question #4

    In field of ABE we need to do the following:

    - Funding to leapfrog our technologies currently offered to the most up-to-date computers and software.
    -Funding for professional development needed to train teachers to fully integrate digital literacy skills into classroom learning and apply them to distance learning opportunities to allow application of these skills.
    -Continued support of ABE as a key to workforce development
    -Policy focus on getting the workforce digitally literate.]

    Also, note that digital inclusion, skill development, access, etc. are crucial to allowing individuals to access meaningful employment, and ultimately to maintaining economic competitiveness to Minnesota and the US.


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