Digital Equity, Literacy, and Inclusion Initiative

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Digital literacy and access to the internet are considered a “super social determinant of health." They are the backbone  for all other social determinants of health (economic sustainability, health care system, community and social context, food, education, neighborhood and physical environment). To ensure the health of its communities and economy, Colorado has taken strategic steps towards digital equity: a state in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.

The OFOW partners with the Colorado Broadband Office, Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Colorado Department of Higher Education, Colorado Department of Education Office of Adult Education Initiatives, Colorado Workforce Development Council, community based organizations, stakeholders, and others to research digital literacy and the programmatic, technological, and educational infrastructure required to ensure all Coloradans are prepared to participate in the future of work, learning, and daily life.

Definitions
Digital Equity

Digital Equity is a state in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy. The three key components of digital equity include:

  • Access to affordable, high-speed internet
  • Access to affordable, web-enabled technology
  • Access to relevant and high quality, effective training and support for digital skill development and use

(National Digital Inclusion Alliance)

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion refers to activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to information and communication technologies, and the literacy and resilience to use them. Digital inclusion ultimately leads to digital equity.

(National Digital Inclusion Alliance)

Digital Resilience

Digital Resilience refers to the awareness, skills, agility, and confidence to be empowered users of new technologies and adapt to changing digital skill demands.

(Digital US)

Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.

(National Digital Inclusion Alliance)

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Digital Equity Planning Grant & ACP Overview Webinar: Slides & Recording Now Available

On September 15, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), along with the Office of eHealth Innovation, and the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO), hosted a webinar to discuss the Digital Equity (DE) Planning Grant and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). We reviewed what to expect from the DE planning process, the program timeline and our proposed activities. We discussed how the Digital Equity Committee will replace the Subcommittee on Digital Literacy and Inclusion and how to get involved. Additionally, the CBO gave an overview of the ACP and how it can benefit Colorado communities. View the recording and slides below. 

View Presentation Slides

View Presentation Recording

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Man with smartphone and laptop
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As the Broadband Office coordinates broadband efforts to create more access to high-speed internet they have partnered with the Office of Future of Work (OFOW) and the Office of eHealth Innovation (OeHI) to lead activities related to digital literacy and inclusion.

In March 2021, as directed by the Executive Order the Broadband Advisory Board resolved to create the Subcommittee on Digital Literacy and Inclusion (SDLI) to discuss, research, analyze, and draw conclusions concerning digital literacy and inclusion and to provide regular updates to the Broadband Advisory Board concerning such discussions. The SDLI has three working groups to support digital literacy and inclusion efforts:

  • Policy: Identify and/or design state and federal policy solutions for increasing digital equity at the individual, systems, local and state level. 
  • Data: Develop baseline of digital literacy and inclusion levels across Colorado communities and populations to inform 2022/2023 digital inclusion development goals for the state. 
  • Promising Practices: Research and identify promising practices to amplify, scale, or adapt to Colorado as part of the SDLI’s efforts.. Promising practices should consider each component of digital equity and the individual and systems level.

In July 2022, the Broadband Advisory Board was dissolved as a result of Governor Polis' new Executive Order amending the Executive Order on Accelerating Broadband Deployment in Colorado. As a result, the SDLI is now the Digital Equity Committee which will continue the working groups of the SDLI and serve as the working group for activities related to Colorado's Digital Equity State Planning Grant and related digital literacy and inclusion activities. The Digital Equity Committee will be co-led by the OFOW and OeHI.

The Digital Equity Committee will not be focused on broadband infrastructure across the state. If you are interested in learning more about the efforts related to broadband infrastructure, please check out the Colorado Broadband Office's resources  

Who should join the Digital Equity Committee: Any individual/organization that is interested in learning more about digital literacy and inclusion, sharing their model/insights from their digital literacy and inclusion work, and/or joining the effort to build digital equity across the state. We are intentionally building an inclusive membership and working groups of diverse partners.

To learn more and get involved, please complete this form or reach out to katherine.keegan@state.co.us.

Digital Equity Committee Schedule and Recordings (includes SDLI archives)

Past Meetings
Upcoming Meetings
  • Next meeting: Join us on 9/15/22 from 12 pm - 1 pm MT to learn more about the Digital Equity Planning Grant and Affordable Connectivity Program. In this webinar we'll share what you can expect from the planning process, timeline and proposed activities, and how you can get involved! - Register Here

In Colorado and across the country there are significant gaps in access to web-enabled technology and people across industries and demographics lack the skills they need to use digital tools for work, learning, and daily life.

Many U.S. workers across all industries lack the digital skills they need to ensure their continued success. A National Skills Coalition analysis of digital skills of the American workforce found that: 

  • 13 percent of the workforce has no digital skills (workers who failed to meet one or more of 3 baseline criteria to even take the full digital skills assessment: prior computer use, willingness to take the computer-based assessment, or ability to complete 4 out of 6 very basic computer tasks, such as using a mouse or highlighting text on screen) 
  • 18 percent of the workforce has very limited skills (Workers who can complete only very simple digital tasks with a generic interface and just a few simple steps; for example, these workers might struggle to sort emails that respond to an event invitation into different folders.) 
  • 35 percent has achieved a baseline level of proficient skills

Workers with limited or no digital skills are present across all industries, age groups, and demographic groups. Black/African American and Latino workers are overrepresented among those with digital skill gaps; workers of all racial backgrounds feel that financial constraints are their greatest impediment to upskilling. In Colorado, as of November 2019 (NTIA):

  • 72.9 percent of the population over the age of three are using smartphones and 53.6 percent using laptops;
  • 19.9 percent of households have no home internet use and 44 percent of those households indicate the main reason they do not use the internet at home is that they do not need it or are not interested which supports the need for adoption programs;
  • 22.2 percent of Coloradans over the age of 15 that are using the internet are using it to take a class or participate  in job training online.

Digital Divide Index (2019): The Digital Divide Index or DDI ranges in value from 0 to 100, where 100 indicates the highest digital divide. It is composed of two scores, also ranging from 0 to 100: the infrastructure/adoption (INFA) score and the socioeconomic (SE) score. Access the interactive map here.

IC3 Internet Connectivity Explorer: Visit this site to explore and build your own map of connectivity.

NTIA Data Explorer  (November 2019): As of November 2019, 4,541,527 people (82.3%) were using the internet at home, 1,117,691 people (20.3%) were using the internet at a public access point, and 288,774 households (12.2%) had no internet access at home. Coloradan households that reported no internet use at home, shared the following main reasons

  • 157,188 (54.4%) were not interested/did not see a need
  • 55,637 (19.3%) said it was too expensive for them
  • 10,318 (3.6%) could use the internet elsewhere
  • 22,436 (7.8%) did not have internet available in their area
  • 15,648 (5.4%) did not have a device to access internet with
  • 3,361 (1.2%) had privacy or security concerns

Coloradan households with internet access at home reported the following subscription types:

  • 3,733 (0.2%) had dial-up service
  • 4,056 (0.2%) had home internet access via publicly available service provided at no charge
  • 11,559 (0.6%) purchased internet via a public agency, nonprofit, or cooperative
  • 48,340 (2.3%) had internet provided as part of their building/apartment/condo costs
  • 127,585 (6.1%) had satellite internet
  • 1,775,777 (85.5%) had wired high speed internet
  • 1,984,093 (95.5%) purchased internet from a private company

As of November 2019, Coloradans used the following devices

  • 4,023,201 (72.9%) Coloradans use a smartphone
  • 2,960,103 (53.6%) Coloradans use a laptop
  • 1,515,566 (27.9%) Coloradans use a desktop computer

U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey  (March 17 - 29, 2021): In Colorado,

  • 60,108  households with children in the K-12 system who have inconsistent access to computer for educational purposes and 64,878 households with inconsistent access to the internet for educational purposes
  • 1,879,051 households where at least one adult switched to teleworking during the pandemic

Digitunity Tech Gap Map  (2018): Shows information by state and by county based on the U.S. Census ACS 2018 5-Year:

  • 151,000 households in Colorado have no computer

Colorado Futures Center - Who are Colorado’s School Age Children without access to the internet?  (May  2020)

  • Two-thirds of children living without internet are Hispanic.
  • 49 percent of children without internet access are in elementary school.
  • 52 percent of children without internet live in households earning less than $50,000, with 25 percent in households learning less than $25,000.
  • A majority, 57 percent, of these children have at least one parent working in an essential industry.

MPI Analysis of Parents of Young Children in Colorado (April 2021): Provides an analysis of U.S. Census information related to digital literacy and access for U.S. born and foreign-born parents of young children in Colorado. 

U.S. Census: In recent decades, computer usage and Internet access has become increasingly important for gathering information, looking for jobs, and participation in a changing world economy. Check out this page from the U.S. Census website to understand what data is collected for your region.

The OFOW partnered with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) and its Skills2Compete Coalition to develop a competency framework and policy recommendations that will increase digital literacy and inclusion across the state. 

Explore the Digital Equity Framework

The framework should be read as a continuum from left to right. The leftmost column contains foundational competencies that reflect an acknowledgement of digital inequity and a need to address it. The competencies then progress from Stages 1 through 3, with each reflecting digital inclusion activities that build on the previous column. The rightmost column of the chart contains advanced competencies that reflect a state of digital equity. This framework includes a few key components that separate it from existing resources, described below:

  • Four components of digital equity: Competencies on our framework are separated based on the component of digital equity they address. These include digital skills for daily life, connectivity/infrastructure (access to high-speed internet), equipment (access to technology appropriate for the goal), and digital skills for education, training, and work. 
  • A systems and individual approach: While many competency frameworks focus solely on the need of an individual to access resources and build skills, the CCLP/OFOW framework provides an individual and a systems-level view. This acknowledges the role systems play in reinforcing inequities and their responsibility in addressing them. Including the systems level directly with the individual level keeps the “end-user” at the center of the work, and creates benchmarks against which the state can measure itself.
  • Each begins with trust and self-efficacy: Throughout the research process, CCLP and OFOW found that the first step towards digital equity was the need for individuals and systems to acknowledge how digital skills, technology, and internet are necessary in order to reach their goals. For this reason, each competency continuum begins with this acknowledgement. 
  • A living, adaptable document: This is a general framework that can be adapted to address the competencies needed for specific populations or regions. The specific digital skills and competencies in the Digital Skills Catalog will be embedded in this Digital Equity Framework. This framework will evolve based on input from partners, stakeholders, and readers like you. If there are any errors, updates, ideas, or questions, please reach out to the OFOW at katherine.keegan@state.co.us

Explore the Digital Skill Catalog

This living document logs and categorizes 244 digital literacy competencies required for daily life, learning, and the future of work. Skills are organized based on the following criteria:

  • Domain: The area of your life in which you would apply the specific skill/competency or cluster of skills:
    • Work: If yes, this skill/competency or cluster will assist you in the workplace.
    • Learning: If yes, this skill/competency or cluster will allow you to effectively participate in digital learning, education, and training.
    • Daily Life: If yes, this skill/competency or cluster will allow you to use digital tools to participate effectively in daily life. 
  • Relevance: How the skill/competency or cluster applies to the domains
    • Fundamental: If yes, this skill/competency or cluster is considered a baseline/core/foundational skill that should be at the top of the list to master.
    • In Demand: If yes, this skill/competency or cluster is currently in-demand, growing, or expected to grow in the job market. 
    • Resilient: If yes, this skill/competency or cluster will support your resilience in the evolving labor market. 
    • Cutting Edge: If yes, this skill/competency or cluster is high level, and though they are not in high demand currently, they are expected to grow rapidly with emerging industries in the future of work.

Viewers are able to sort and filter by category to narrow in on which aspects are most relevant to them (as showcased in the next section) and explore different tabs focused on different subsets of the catalog. The Catalog contains six tabs:

  1. How to and Glossary: Includes this overview and the glossary for each column
  2. Digital Skills Catalog: The entire digital skills catalog
  3. Duplicate Skills: Includes details for the 25 skills appeared in multiple datasets in the analysis
  4. Work Domain Only: Includes only the details for all skills that were categorized as part of the Work domain
  5. Learning Domain Only: Includes only the details for all skills that were categorized as part of the Learning domain
  6. Daily Life Domain Only: Includes only the details for all skills that were categorized as part of the Daily Life domain

If there are any errors, updates, ideas, questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the OFOW at katherine.keegan@state.co.us.  

National Digital Inclusion Alliance: The National Digital Inclusion Alliance is a unified voice for home broadband access, public broadband access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs. NDIA is a community of digital inclusion practitioners and advocates. We work collaboratively to craft, identify and disseminate financial and operational resources for digital inclusion programs while serving as a bridge to policymakers and the general public.

DigitalUS: Digital US is a national coalition working to ensure that all of US have technology skills and digital resilience to thrive in work and life

Aging Connected: To help close the digital divide facing seniors today, OATS and the Humana Foundation have partnered to launch Aging Connected, with the goal of bringing one million older Americans online by 2022. Their plan to bridge the connectivity gap: (1) Publicize and clearly articulate value of broadband to seniors (2) Prioritize social equity and inclusion (3) Expand access to low-cost offers (4) Develop content, communities, and experiences for older adults to increase utilization of broadband services.

National Skills Coalition - Future of Work: Jobs that require skills training are the backbone of our economy. National Skills Coalition fights for a national commitment to inclusive, high-quality skills training so that more people have access to a better life, and more local businesses see sustained growth.

Rework America Alliance: The Rework America Alliance is an unprecedented nationwide collaboration to enable unemployed and low wage workers to emerge from this crisis stronger. The Alliance aims to help millions of workers, regardless of formal education, move into good jobs in the digital economy by accelerating the development of an effective system of worker training aligned to jobs that employers will need to fill.

Microsoft Global Skills Initiative: This initiative is aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year. This initiative will bring together every part of our company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft.  It will be grounded in three areas of activity:

  • (1) The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them;
  • (2) Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require;
  • (3) Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

Affordable Internet Access:

  • Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): ACP is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program to help low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices like a laptop or tablet. 

    • You are likely eligible if your household’s income is below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, or if you or someone you live with currently receives government benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, WIC, Pell Grant, or Free and Reduced-Price Lunch. There are 97 different providers participating in this program in Colorado.
    • Eligible Coloradans receive:
      • Up to a $30/month discount on your internet service
      • Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying tribal lands
      • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)
      • A low-cost service plan that may be fully covered through the ACP
  • Free WiFi Access: Find Colorado Public Libraries offering free WiFi

Digital Skill Development: 

  • Northstar Digital Literacy - Test your skills, build skills, or find providers in your community
  • The Digital Skills Library is an open repository of free learning resources designed to help all adult learners develop the digital skills needed to achieve their personal, civic, educational, and career goals.
  • For seniors: Senior Planet helps seniors learn new skills in-person and online and operates a National Tech Hotline: 888-713-3495 which is monitored by Senior Planet Trainers from 9am – 5pm EDT, Monday through Friday. They can help with whatever technological issues you’re experiencing or help you find someone who can!

Devices: 

As part of SB22-140: Expansion of Experiential Learning Opportunities, the OFOW will deploy community-based digital navigators to address digital inequities (access to technology, digital skills, and affordable internet), that prevent people from accessing work-based learning, job-training and employment opportunities. This program will be launched in January 2023. For more information or to get involved, please reach out to katherine.keegan@state.co.us.

Colorado was selected as a pilot site for World Education, Inc.'s Transforming Immigrant Digital Equity (TIDE), project. This work builds upon the findings of their Remote ESOL Project and seeks to dramatically expand access to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) learning and related immigrant integration supports for immigrants and refugees through scalable, sustainable program models and services that optimize the use of technology. The purpose of the subgrantee place-based pilot site is to build a local ecosystem of partners and stakeholders providing tech-enabled ESOL learning opportunities and supports for immigrants and refugees in their area of influence.  The OFOW is one of three subgrantee pilot sites, and, in partnership with the Office of New Americans, will be focusing their participation in the pilot on strategically engaging New Americans in the state's digital equity planning grant and digital navigator programs.

In 2021, the OFOW partnered with Mile High United Way 2-1-1 to audit and update digital literacy and inclusion resources in its debase. This project ensured that all organizations providing access to technology (for loan or ownership), access to the internet (in-home or at public access sites), and access to digital skill development resources were listed. The OFOW provided training to the 2-1-1 team on digital literacy and inclusion so they identify when digital literacy and inclusion are a barrier to accessing services. The audit resulted in the addition of 195 Services by 103 Agencies at 257 Locations.

Does your organization provide digital literacy and inclusion resources? Update your listing now!

2-1-1 is a multilingual and confidential service that connects individuals with community resources and information. Mile High United Way’s 2-1-1 Help Center connects individuals to tailored resources in their community by phone, text, chat, email, and in-person. 2-1-1 is a confidential, multilingual service that helps callers navigate through their situation by assessing their needs and then matching them with the best and closest resources in their community. 2-1-1 has the largest, most current database of resources in the Rocky Mountain region for health and human services.

In partnership with the Colorado Department of Education's Office of Adult Education Initiatives, the OFOW is providing access to resources to support digital skill development. 

Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment and Online Learning

Northstar is a program of the non-profit organization Literacy Minnesota, whose mission is to share the power of learning through education, community building, and advocacy. Northstar Digital Literacy defines, assesses, and helps individuals build the basic skills needed to perform tasks on computers and online. Included are basic computer digital literacy standards and modules in three main areas:

  • Essential Computer Skills - Basic Computer Skills, Internet Basics, Using Email, Windows OS, Mac OS
  • Essential Software Skills – Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Google Docs
  • Using Technology in Daily Life - Social Media, Information Literacy, Career Search Skills, Supporting K-12 Distance Learning, Your Digital Footprint.

Northstar allows end users to freely take the assessments from anywhere via our homepage, but individuals can instead go to an approved testing location and obtain the Northstar Digital Literacy Certificate when they pass assessments.

Find your nearest testing location and explore the free online learning on the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment and Online Learning website. 

VoxyEnGen

Voxy is an innovative digital English solution that has been used successfully by hundreds of organizations around the world. Their AI-driven platform allows each learner to follow a personalized course of activities and live classes, designed to help them reach their individual goals in one-third of the time of traditional courses.

The OFOW and CDE are providing licenses to adult education and workforce partners to use Voxy EnGen as part of the services they provide to English Language Learners. Pilot organizations will document their use and impact of the platform to inform other service providers across the state. 

The OFOW has partnered with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) and its Skills2Compete Coalition to develop a competency framework and policy recommendations that will increase digital literacy and inclusion across the state. 

The competency framework maps the specific competencies at the individual and systems level to ensure all Coloradans have:

  • Digital skills for daily life
  • Connectivity/ Infrastructure for work, learning, and daily life
  • Equipment for work, learning, and daily life
  • Digital skills for education, training, and work

This framework informs policy recommendations for both the SDLI and Skill2Compete Coalition. 

Through the Strada Recovery Incubator grant with the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Fort Lewis College (FLC) and the OFOW have partnered to design innovative programming that will provide college students with the digital literacy competencies needed for workplace success. 

Central to this project is an emphasis on creating programming that can provide digital literacy inclusion to an increasingly diverse workforce.  FLC serves 58% students of color, with a special focus on our 45% Native American/American Indian students representing over 180 different tribal nations and Alaskan Native Villages; FLC also serves over 30% first-generation students and over 30% Pell-eligible students.  Through this partnership, FLC and the OFOW have the unique ability to create transformative models of digital skill learning and achievement for the workers of tomorrow.

FLC Digital Literacy Program  With OFOW support, FLC will design and implement a digital literacy program comprised of four elements:

  1. "Tech Team" Peer Educators/Navigators:  FLC will create a “Tech Team” of Peer Educators dedicated to guiding students to digital literacy resources and tutoring students in digital literacy skills.
  2. Online modules on digital literacy:  FLC will create online instructional units on foundational digital skills and advanced digital skills.  FLC will determine what skills are most needed by college students, and will then sequence these skills into foundational and advanced programming.
  3. One-credit course on digital literacy: The modules described above will be integrated into a more comprehensive one-credit, eight-week hybrid course focused on digital literacy. 
  4. Supportive outreach program: The modules/course above will be supported with an intentional outreach effort that encourages our Native American, first-generation, and underserved populations to take advantage of this programming.  We will connect this program into other student-serving structures and grants at FLC.

As the future of work evolves, the Colorado Workforce Development Council, CDLE, Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the Economic Development Council of Colorado have teamed up to launch the Colorado Remote Work Initiative.

This multi-tiered initiative will ensure Coloradans are equipped to compete in remote work environments by strengthening Colorado's ability to attract jobs, secure talent and retain a location-neutral workforce. The Remote Work Initiative website serves as a hub for remote work information across the state and will highlight innovative approaches, best practices, and share resources for individuals, employers, and communities to adopt remote work strategies.

Remote Work Initiative Website

The OFOW and Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) delivered the Design for Digital Skill Attainment Technical Assistance Module. This six-week program led seven organizations from across the state through a six-week design thinking process to build interventions that reduce digital inequities in their community. The organizations that participated were: 

The experiences of these organizations will be included as case studies the Office’s Digital Literacy and Inclusion report published by June 2021 as part of the Strada Recovery Incubator grant with CDHE. This will help inform design processes for building digital skill attainment in other organizations.

2021 Digital Literacy and Inclusion Report

This report provides an overview of the current state of digital literacy and inclusion, and what is needed to ensure all workers are future-ready. The report has four sections.

  1. The first defines the terms associated with digital equity and then provides a framework to assess digital equity in the state.
  2. The second section provides an overview of the Digital Skill Catalog which logs and categorizes 248 digital literacy competencies required for daily life, learning, and the future of work.
  3. The third section provides an overview of the data available to assess Colorado’s digital equity, and then describes some of the key gaps in data and the OFOW’s plan to address them.
  4. The last section provides an overview of the key interventions that can help reduce the digital divide, describes the effort underway, and shares what’s next for Digital Literacy and Inclusion in Colorado.
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