One Approach to Improving Digital Literacy

As people of all ages become more engaged with technology and the Internet-of-Things, Digital and Computer Literacy becomes more important. Many believe that the true capabilities of ‘the cloud’ and computer technology have barely been tapped. Even with some of the amazing technology we have at our fingertips today, we’re always looking for more.

As communication providers we continually seek out Internet based products and services to better serve our subscribers. For the past few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about the power of the Internet as a tool to:

  • Foster economic development
  • Enhance the quality of life and place
  • Deliver over-the-top products for entertainment, home security, and communication
  • Aid those choosing to age in place

Speaking of tools…

Would you hand a chainsaw to a novice without a lesson or two in its safe and efficient use, and some instruction on how to maintain it?  Not likely.

Computers and the Internet should be treated similarly. While they are great tools, their proper use and care is very important as more and more of our personal information is transmitted digitally. As providers of Internet services, we feel that it is incumbent upon us to make an effort to provide digital literacy education to our subscribers.

For those of us who had the benefit of computers in school, it’s easy to assume that everyone knows how to use computers and access the Internet.  Let’s consider those who never touched a computer in school, or those who are in extremely rural areas when, until recently, the Internet was barely accessible.  Even computer savvy parents may find it difficult to keep up with trends in social media and the measures they should take to ensure their children’s cyber safety. Where business development is concerned, a survey of more than 14.4 million businesses nationwide indicated that more than 75% do not have websites.  Obviously, the business community might benefit from some simple ways to have an on-line presence.

Digital literacy is many things to many people:

  • Independence and quality of life for the senior population
  • Education and quality of life for underserved populations
  • Cyber safety and security for all
  • Utilization of the Internet as a business tool

The Digital Literacy Challenge:

How does a telecom and Internet service provider teach digital literacy to its subscribers?

The OTELCO Solution:

Underwrite basic computer classes for adult education programs in the communities it serves, allowing participants to take the classes free of charge.

The first OTELCO Digital Literacy course offering begins on April 27, in cooperation with MSAD 15 serving Gray and New Gloucester, Maine. The six-week class will include sessions on computer basics, emailing, internet searching, file sharing, and Internet safety. All classes are free, but space is limited. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Students can call 657-9612 to register or register online at www.gngadulted.org 

OTT Digital Literacy Class

New computer users taking advantage of free digital literacy training sponsored bt OTELCO in Gray.

OTELCO is working with school districts in its remaining Maine service areas and with Vermont, Massachusetts, and West Virginia districts to provide computer digital literacy classes for its customers in those service areas as well. The goal is to have basic free computer classes offered in each of OTELCO’s 6 service areas by the Fall 2016 semester.

As ardent supporters of the communities we serve, our goals for this digital literacy initiative are two-fold:

  • Help OTELCO meet it’s goal to provide this valuable training
  • Support adult education programs which are a valuable local resource

For providers in Maine looking to underwrite digital literacy opportunities through the network of adult education programs, a great resource to find programs for a specific location is the Maine Adult Education Association. Sarah Wright at MAEA can also be reached at 564-3630 for more information.