Do you do digital inclusion?

Digital Inclusion is a tough term. Tough, because it isn't often one that organizations use, understand, or have even heard. Sure, there are all sorts of words we don't use or need to use, but for libraries, nonprofits, and elected officials, "digital inclusion" is increasingly an important term to add to our collective lexicon.

According the IMLS' Building Digital Communities: digital inclusion is the ability of individuals and groups to access and use information and communication technologies. Digital inclusion encompasses:

  • access to the Internet
  • access to hardware and software
  • relevant content and services
  • training for digital literacy skills

To me, digital inclusion is about equity for all. So you can see how perhaps using a term like "digital inclusion" might be important for organizations, especially those that do digital inclusion (D.I) work, but don't include D.I. in their mission. For example, a domestic violence shelter that also provides computers with access to the Internet and relevant digital resources likely considers their organization one that supports those afflicted by domestic violence. Period. In a conversation about D.I., that organization's leaders may fall silent.

All of the work we do on is in support of digital inclusion. Along with WebJunction and ICMA, I'm gearing up to help facilitate a summit in St. Paul, MN, where next week we gather community representatives to jumpstart or ignite current efforts to build digital communities. In the process of this project, we've learned quite a bit about how organizations--libraries and community-based organizations--define D.I. work, plan for it, and communicate it to elected officials. At this summit, three representatives from nine communities will come together to share their work, to plan new work, and to leave ready to make a difference in their communities together.

What your organization can do

The summit is a small group of communities, so you may be wondering, "how can I learn about D.I.?" Think about the resources you offer, and take a look at IMLS' Building Digital Communities Getting Started (pdf). In this document, you'll find sample strategies categorized by organization type. Impressively, this document actually tells you what to do! Comb through the resources and start thinking about your stakeholders. How can you learn more about their priorities and how their work or reach might benefit your organizational goals? How can you partner with other organizations, and how can you come together to make D.I. a collective priority?

At the summit next week, we'll be guiding the communities through exercises to jumpstart ideas and codify them in straightforward, attainable steps. After the summit, our three organizations will create and publish resources that will help your organization take steps to partner with your community and make digital inclusion a priority. I hope you'll join us.