Duluth News Tribune looks at library funds to address digital equity and older Minnesotans

Duluth News Tribune recognizes the impact of age on digital equity…

However, virtual as the new normal is exposing an age-based digital divide within our state of Minnesota. Older adults have lower access to the internet, fewer digital skills, and more limited use of technology. The digital divide contributes to increased social isolation, the severity of chronic diseases, and an overall diminished quality of life. The problem is worse in rural areas than metro areas.

A few facts: Minnesota already has a larger 65-plus population than that of school-age children; and, from 2010 to 2030, the number of Minnesota’s older adults will double. Greater Minnesota is home to a larger share of older adults, outpacing metro areas in the ratio of older adults to school-age children.

As 10,000 baby boomers retire daily from now until 2030 across the U.S., retirees are realizing there is no longer an IT department available to them.

And recognizes that the State has an opportunity to address the issue through the libraries…

There is a timely opportunity, however, for Minnesota to achieve equitable digital inclusion and increase digital literacy. The Library Services & Technology Act of 1996 (LSTA) established a federal grant program to identify priorities centered on technology infrastructure. Under the leadership of the State Library Services, Minnesota’s library network of 356 public locations has historically provided community-based digital devices and training resources. Every five years, the LSTA requires state library agencies to submit a five-year grant plan identifying state priorities for LSTA funds. With the 2022-2025 five-year plan due this summer, Minnesota has the opportunity to prioritize digital inclusion and digital literacy programs that champion Minnesota’s rural older adults.

Minnesota has a significant funding opportunity via the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act. Linking the development of a state digital-equity plan to existing broadband-access initiatives strategically positions the Minnesota State Library Services to lead digital inclusion and digital literacy, using its extensive statewide footprint.

The broad deployment of digital inclusion and digital literacy programs will enable Minnesota’s growing older adult population to fully participate in the virtual new normal.

The opportunity is now. Baby boomers continue to change the world. We have the population size, voting capacity, and drive to expect positive quality-of-life outcomes throughout our lifespans. In order to ensure equitable participation in the modern digital landscape, we must have IT services accessible to us regardless of where we live in Minnesota. The Minnesota State Library Services has the geographic reach, knowledge, expertise, and savvy to create real change and implement digital inclusion and digital literacy as an essential healthy aging strategy benefiting all of Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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