How Does the United States Move Beyond Digital Illiteracy?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 has targeted broadband as an instrument to help in revitalizing our economy. The investment in this information infrastructure will not only help to create jobs but assist in developing new technologies, applications and services. These initiatives are part of the "Transforming Our Economy With Science And Technology" heading. The recovery bill states that "for every dollar invested in broadband the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment." The bill plans to allocate (in grants) $6 billion dollars to expand broadband access to businesses and every community.

I find that this is a rather interesting argument. I have been of the opinion that the lack of broadband access or the adoption rate of broadband access (to be more specific) was primarily a financial issue. Unfortunately, the financial issue is part of a larger equation. It would appear that "digital literacy" is the major issue. Broadband adoption then must be addressed on multiple fronts -- 1. financial investments, 2. broadband regulations and 3. digital literacy education. Addressing these three issues, with a heavy emphasis on digital literacy, would bring broadband ubiquity throughout the U.S.

Unfortunately, addressing the digital literacy issue is problematic at best. It begs the question "how do we educate" or in some instances (re)educate, as Stephen Balkam puts it the "four categories of non-adopters," Near Converts, Digital Hopefuls, Digitally Uncomfortable and Digitally Distant. It seems like an easy solution to educate our children, since they are already in school but what do we do with parents and other adults? Also, how do we begin to address the issue that many American households do not have computers? Do we have a state or federal program which will allow those household to purchase computers at a discount?

I also think within the FCC's Broadband Policy, to be presented to Congress on March 17, 2010 -- there needs to be a provision for investing in broadband applications such as telecommuting, distance learning, telemedicine, etc. These applications (or services) can be the catalyst, necessary, to launch a national broadband initiative. Private companies such as Google are already taking on this responsibility -- in hopes of proving the viability of a strong national broadband policy.