The article is published here - http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/techtank/posts/2016/03/31-us-needs-a...
This month saw the U.S. celebrate two annual events—Crochet Week and National Bubble Week. Over in Europe, the focus was digital and much more impactful. From March 14-20, the seventh annual Get Online Week took place with a wealth of activities aimed at reducing the digital skills gap and promoting jobs that utilize information and communication technologies (ICT).
Get Online Week raises awareness about online identities, cybersecurity, ICT skills, and available tools so that European citizens can become more confident Internet users. Here are some examples from individual countries that illustrate the various approaches that were taken with bottom-up planning within local areas:
Similar Get Online Week activities were organized in Denmark, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, UK, Cyprus, Portugal, and Romania.
Given the common set of digital use issues on both sides of the Atlantic, the U.S. has much to learn from what is now an extensive track record of success for Get Online Week. The design of Get Online Week is also well suited to adaptation by individual states and large metropolitan areas. With our states and cities acting as 24/7 digital laboratories, we could stimulate collective teaching and learning about improving the Internet.
The European model for Get Online Week is based on extensive public-private partnerships for events, which makes budgets manageable and the programmatic activities both workable and measureable. This is another aspect that deserves emulation at home, too.
In an age of hacking, cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying, a U.S. Get Online Week would be an opportune time to organize local conversations about identifying and combating these Internet safety threats. The digital divide has become less about broadband network availability—now ubiquitous in all 50 states and the U.S. territories—and more about gaps in digital literacy, skills, and trust.
Celebrating crochet and bubbles had a good long ride, but it’s time to devote significant national attention to online activities that affect our lives more profoundly as students, workers, consumers, and citizens. An American Get Online Week is a concept ripe for launching next year.
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