Digital literacy seen as key to 21st-century economic success

A report released Thursday outlining an action plan to improve digital literacy in the state advised policymakers to work with educators and business leaders to transform the state’s digital media industry. More

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Digital literacy seen as key to 21st-century economic success

PBN FILE PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
DIGITAL CITY PROJECT MANAGER Taliesin Gilkes-Bower speaks at the initiative's open house in November in its downtown Providence home. The next stage for the effort to make Rhode Island a center for digital media was outlined in a report released Thursday.
Posted 2/20/14

PROVIDENCE – A report released Thursday outlining an action plan to improve digital literacy in the state advised policymakers to work with educators and business leaders to transform the state’s digital media industry.

The 43-page report, titled “Going Digital: Developing Business and Education Strategies for a 21st-century Rhode Island,” was put together by Digital City Rhode Island, an initiative that aims to elevate Rhode Island as the internationally recognized East Coast hub for digital media by the year 2020.

Digital City was conceived through the “Make It Happen Rhode Island” campaign launched by the Rhode Island Foundation, and the “Going Digital” report was one project funded through a $50,000 foundation grant. Digital City is headed by Project Director Taliesen Gilkes-Bower; Gary Glassman, a filmmaker who runs Providence Pictures Inc.; and Renee Hobbs, professor and founding director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island.

In November, Digital City opened a co-work space for its producers and collaborators at AS220 in Providence, called DC206, where paying members get access to work space, storage, high-speed Internet and Wi-fi, a kitchenette, free attendance to all events held in the space and other amenities.

“Digital media is the language of the knowledge economy,” the Digital City website states. “Creating a critical mass of Rhode Island-based companies and digital media-literate workers is the key to achieving a thriving 21st-century economy.”

In the report, Digital City said total size of the modern digital economy is estimated at $20.4 trillion, or roughly 13.8 percent of the world economy. By 2018, 61 percent of all Rhode Island jobs will be for workers with at least a college education, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, but Broadband Rhode Island has reported that 29 percent of Rhode Island adults do not use the Internet today and lack basic digital literacy skills to gather information, apply for jobs, use email and perform other basic online functions.

“Today, much of Rhode Island’s workforce is simply not well-prepared for work in a digital environment,” the report said.

However, while preparing the state’s future workforce for the jobs of tomorrow remains a key goal of Digital City’s mission, developing digital literacy – defined as “the ability to use, access, analyze, evaluate and create content in a wide variety of forms” – is about more than jobs alone.

“People change jobs and careers so frequently in the new economy that it is important to view digital media education and training broadly as a fundamental tool for effective citizenship,” the report stated.

Rhode Island’s location along the Northeast corridor and its emerging culture of support for entrepreneurship make the state uniquely positioned to assume a role of national leadership in the field of digital media, Digital City asserted in the report. To make that happen, government, academic institutions and the business community must collaborate to bring together public and private support for developing digital media education.

To that end, Digital City concluded the report with three key recommendations: developing coordinated standards and assessments for digital media literacy in classrooms; creating a digital media education center focused on helping mid-career and transitioning adults acquire critical skills; and relaunching the Rhode Island Nexus platform originally launched by the R.I. Commerce Corporation to inform, support and grow the state’s info-tech and digital media sectors.

Over the next six months, the Harrington School will seek input from educators, entrepreneurs and other business leaders on how to put the Digital City recommendations into action. Interested parties can submit ideas at harrington.uri.edu/event/digital/.

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