What Is Digital Inclusion, and What Role Do Libraries Play in It?
From free wifi to device rentals, public libraries are helping bridge the digital divide.
Digital technology has become an integral part of our daily lives in recent years. While this has been mostly beneficial, it has also created a new issue to contend with: the digital divide. As important as having access to technology is, many people still don’t have the access to it that they need due to their socioeconomic status or physical location. This issue has resulted in the rise of the digital inclusion movement, with public institutions like libraries leading the charge.
The digital inclusion movement’s goal is to compensate for, correct, and ultimately close the digital divide. Though its job may seem like a simple one at first, the issues it must address are actually quite complicated, and solving them is an involved process. Closing the digital divide requires more than just giving devices to people who don’t already have them. After all, a device isn’t much good without an internet connection or the know-how to use it. This is where libraries play their role in the movement.
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Free Internet Access
Though many people in low-income households and rural areas won’t have their own internet connection, an increasing number of public libraries provide their patrons with free wireless internet access, giving people the means to use their technology to the fullest. Whether it’s for school, work, social activities, or anything in between, the library’s free internet access is a lifesaver to those who need it and contributes greatly to closing the digital divide.
Tech Literacy Classes
Many people, especially those who didn’t grow up around digital technology, were never taught the internet use and safety skills that we take for granted. To encourage tech literacy among these audiences, many public libraries hold free classes that anyone can attend, where basic computer navigation skills and internet safety tips, like how to avoid a scam, will be taught. This ensures that the internet is not just a helpful resource but a safe one as well.
For those who simply can’t afford a device, the library will often rent out devices. This is nearly a standard practice for university campus libraries, but it’s spreading rapidly to public libraries as well. With internet access to allow for their use and tech literacy classes to ensure they’re used safely, these devices are a powerful tool for closing the digital divide and are making a very real, very tangible difference in the lives of the people and communities who need them.
The digital divide is an ongoing issue that public libraries are hard at work trying to solve, so they can use all the help they can get. If you’d like to learn more about the issue itself and the role you can play in solving it, visit us at EveryLibrary today!
Visit www.everylibrary.org to learn more about our work on behalf of libraries.
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