Last week the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched DigitalLiteracy.gov, in collaboration with a number of Federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The portal will serve to provide public 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.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra’s premise is simple: “We live in an Internet economy where high-speed Internet access and online skills are necessary for seeking, applying for and getting today’s jobs. DigitalLiteracy.gov will help Americans build the online skills needed to fully share in the benefits of broadband, including developing workforce skills, finding reliable healthcare information, or designing a website.”

At a public computing center in Baltimore, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke states that “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. The tools unveiled 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.”

The NTIA is 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 16,600 public libraries. As the Digital Literacy Initiative fact sheet points out:

WE LIVE IN AN INTERNET ECONOMY

Global online transactions currently total an estimated $10 trillion annually.
In the United States alone, according to the U.S. Census, domestic online transactions in 2008 were estimated to total $33.7 trillion annually.
By one estimate, American jobs related to the Internet contributed an estimated $300 billion of economic activity to the U. S. gross domestic product in 2009.

DIGITAL LITERACY IS NECESSARY FOR TODAY’S JOBS

  • Ninety-six percent of working Americans use new communications technologies as part of their daily life, while sixty-two percent of working Americans use the Internet as an integral part of their jobs.
  • Between 1998 and 2008, the number of domestic IT jobs grew by 26 percent, four times faster than U.S. employment as a whole. By 2018, IT employment is expected to grow by another 22 percent.
  • According to one estimate, as of 2009, advertising-supported Internet services directly or indirectly employed three million Americans, 1.2 million of whom hold jobs that did not exist two decades ago.
  • High-speed Internet access and online skills are not only necessary for seeking, applying for, and getting today’s jobs, but also to take advantage of the growing educational, civic, and health care advances spurred by broadband. For example, an increasing amount of activities – such as taking college classes, monitoring chronic medical conditions, renewing your driver’s license, tracking your child’s school assignments – are now commonly conducted online.