What would it be like to not know how to use the Internet?

At TRAIL, a question that is top of mind in our design and content creation is, “What would it be like to not know how to use the Internet?” We created a short video, part of an advocacy campaign for National Digital Literacy Month in September 2013, that highlights the issue.

Statistics show stark demographic disparities in digital literacy. Senior citizens, Spanish speakers, adults with less than a high school education, and those living in low-income households are the least likely adults to have Internet access. Ten percent fewer Hispanics and African-Americans use the Internet than whites. Fortunately, the digital divide is beginning to receive more national attention, through recent coverage in the New York Times and through news of Facebook’s collaborative effort to spur connectivity called Internet.org. A recent piece in PBS’s “Media Shift” rightly asserts that the popular concept of big data doesn’t hold water given the fact that it excludes the 20 million Americans still offline.

Only 6 in 10 Americans go online wirelessly with one of their own devices, so public institutions are serving a crucial need in providing access to the American public. Organizations are beginning to invest in digital literacy programming, and while best practices are emerging, digital literacy is often taught in an offline manner that does not allow for the effective use of data or the introduction of platforms from which users can manage their own learning. The question still remains: do these organizations have the resources and the tools to provide Internet literacy trainings to those who need it most?