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Foundational Digital Skills: An Equity Imperative

  • Publication: 
    The Aspen Institute
    Date: 
    January 7, 2020

    As a single parent who worked full-time as a teacher’s aide, Tamea Bishop was determined to improve her economic prospects by pursuing postsecondary education. Because of her busy work schedule and child care needs, it was hard for Tamea to find classes she could attend. Online learning seemed to be her best bet, but she didn’t own a computer and lacked some basic computer skills.

    Tamea’s story is all too familiar: Individuals with the ambition and potential to succeed in our increasingly digital economy are held back by an education and training infrastructure that wasn’t designed or built with the unique needs of adult learners in mind– particularly those with low levels of digital fluency.

    That’s why more than 20 organizations have united to form Digital US, a national coalition of employers, educators, workforce development professionals, policymakers, and philanthropists partnering to ensure that all of us have the foundational digital skills needed to thrive in work and life by 2030. The coalition will transform interest in supporting digital skills into a movement to create an ecosystem that enables continuous digital learning and upskilling.

    A 2019 survey showed more than 80% of executives are highly concerned about a digital skills gap. While increasing attention is being given to upskilling workers, and while we celebrate the progress in both awareness and action, we know millions of workers are still being left behind.

    Employers tend to focus on big disruptions from emerging technologies, but the reality is that most jobs won’t be automated away. Rather, they will change at the margins, requiring nearly all individuals to continuously adapt to use increasingly digital tools. The Markle Foundation refers to a lack of focus on these jobs and workers as the Digital Blindspot.

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