We can be the first country to connect every resident to the internet

For generations, working Americans have been advised that they will need a three-legged chair for retirement: Social Security, personal savings, and a defined contribution pension or plan.

Today, young Americans need another three-legged chair to succeed during their careers: basic literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy.

Computer skills have been essential to economic mobility for years, especially since our lives moved online with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why the visual goal of President Biden’s infrastructure bill – Affordable High Speed ​​Internet for Every American – It’s not just about stringing fibers and building networks. It is also an unprecedented opportunity to invest in the human infrastructure—teachers, state-of-the-art curriculum, community engagement on the street, true accountability—needed to give the vote to all Delaware residents in our digital future.

We have big work to do. third Of all the digital skills of adult Americans, they are limited at best. And the Three out of four 21-year-old middle school students sufferStreet Master the digital century. Here in Delaware, Half of all third graders Cannot read at grade level. and almost 68000 The adult population of Delaware operates at the lowest level of literacy.

In short, we are falling short in our mission to prepare today’s students to thrive in tomorrow’s job market. By 2030, 90% of all jobs In the US it will require digital skills. The infrastructure bill offers a vision – and most importantly, funding – to begin to fill this gap.

Global broadband availability is a prerequisite, and thankfully Delaware is well on its way. 98.5% of homes Internet is already available across the state, and Governor John Carney recently announced a $56 million investment to reach more than 11,000 remaining unserved homes and businesses. By partnering with proven and experienced network builders, Delaware now has a chance to become the first state in the country with 100% coverage.

The new $30 per month infrastructure bill subsidy program for low-income families also ensures that these fast networks are financially accessible to all. Around 200,000 dl – 21% of our population – Eligible for this benefit which covers the full cost of the service through the service providers Low Income Programs.

But even with this infrastructure available and affordable, 28% Delawareans are still not subscribed. only 58% Of families with incomes of $30,000 or less are online, compared to 92 percent of those earning more than $75,000.

For this Our biggest digital equity challenge will be to provide every Delaware citizen with the digital knowledge and confidence to make the most of broadband connections that are now more widely and affordable than ever before.

We have our work cut out for us: 71% of adults Across the country without internet at home, I don’t think it would make a difference in their lives. National Surveys From Unconnected Families highlights the complex jungle of social and structural challenges driving this frustration: fear of dangers and dangers online, mistrust of shows that sound too good to be true, language barriers and housing insecurity, among many others.

Like many aspects of our education system, changing these attitudes and outcomes must begin with family awareness and community engagement. digital navigator The initiatives offer a promising model: specially trained staff or volunteers within schools, libraries, social service agencies, or community nonprofits who can work individually with unconnected families to help them sign up and deliver a crash course in Internet basics.

Meanwhile, school leaders need to push as quickly as possible to update the curriculum and work with digital skills into all aspects of everyday learning. We must give individual administrators and teachers the flexibility and autonomy to try new approaches — and carefully track progress so that we can identify and iterate the most effective lesson plans.

We need to meet this challenge with the energy and imagination we devote to the pursuit of basic literacy, immunizations or voter registration. As with reading and arithmetic, transmitting digital confidence and competence often requires reaching several generations: young people and their parents and often also grandparents.

It’s a huge challenge, but the unprecedented increase in funding for an infrastructure bill gives Delaware the resources to get the job done. We can be the first country to connect every resident to the Internet – and the first country to ensure that every graduating student has the digital skills that will enable them to thrive in our connected future.

Brittney Mumford is the executive director of Delaware’s Achievement Now, a nonprofit education advocacy organization.