In the 21st century, digital literacy is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity. Every day, we’re becoming more reliant on technology to accomplish basic tasks, from making doctors’ appointments, to paying bills, to applying for jobs, to communicating with friends and family. The ability to use computers and access, create, and share digital content is critical to thriving at work and in our daily lives. More than 8 in 10 jobs require some level of digital competency. Yet, according to a Pew Research Center report, 10% of American adults say they do not use the internet. That figure is higher for Hispanics and seniors: 14% of Hispanic adults in the U.S. and 27% of those 65 and older say that they do not use the internet. Household income is also a factor affecting internet adoption. Adults from lower income households are more likely to be offline than more affluent adults.
Here in Chicago – despite being a hotspot for innovation where the growth rate of tech startups has nearly tripled over the past decade – many communities are faced with these issues of digital exclusion. For the city to thrive it is imperative to train and upskill the current workforce to meet tomorrow’s needs. To do this, Verizon and Unidos.US have joined forces to build digital learning centers in major cities, starting with Chicago. The Chicago center is located at Northwest Side Housing in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood and is equipped with mobile technology, an educational curriculum, and professional services to help program participants become digitally competent in the workplace. The centers will also offer child care and lunches for those enrolled. Verizon and UnidosUS will also launch similar learning centers in Lawrenceville, Massachusetts, Seattle, Washington, and New Orleans, Louisiana.