The data states need to improve digital equity
A new playbook can help states improve the collection, analysis and presentation of digital literacy and skills data as they prepare to apply for digital equity grants.
According to research from the National Skills Coalition, nearly one third of U.S. workers between the ages of 16 and 64 have few or no digital skills. To address that deficiency, states will be able to apply for federal grants to support the development and implementation of Digital Equity Plans that promote digital skills development.
The National Governors Association’s (NGA) new playbook offers state leaders advice on how to collect relevant data on digital literacy and skills gaps and how that information can be used to improve digital equity planning.
To start, many states already have access to plenty of information, including data on education, employment, the labor market, public benefits and workforce programs. Leaders can analyze these datasets to identify where there are gaps in digital literacy and skills data – in rural areas, for example -- and collect additional information for those populations, the playbook said.
Beyond their existing data, states will likely need to collect new data via surveys and focus groups that targets specific state needs. Partnering with labor market information agencies, state workforce agencies, state library associations, institutions of higher education and others can help states collect additional data.
To establish baseline data, states should identify the populations needing digital literacy training, map existing systems and initiatives tracking digital equity and establish measurable digital literacy metrics, the playbook said.
The playbook points to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s State Digital Equity Scorecard where users can explore states’ relative maturity in addressing digital literacy within their workforce.
The score is based on six indicators: data on digital skills needs, plans to close digital skill gaps, online digital skills training, incumbent worker training funds, technology apprenticeships and state broadband plans. Users can explore the methodology behind these scores and find links to datasets on state-level job openings, openings requiring digital skills and more, according to the playbook.
Washington is the only state to score a perfect six on the scale, followed by California, Colorado, Hawaii and North Carolina. Georgia, Mississippi, Montana and New York rank lowest among states, all posting below two points out of six.
NGA also advised states to use aggregated, anonymized data to tell stories about their aspirational plans for digital equity. With ArcGIS mapping software, states can visualize gaps in digital equity and skill development and highlight achievements or locations of policy focus.
Opening the data to nonprofit advocates and other stakeholders via application programming interfaces will allow stakeholders “to piggyback on the state’s prior work and use it to support shared goals and visions,” the playbook said.
“States should capitalize on the rich array of data they are collecting and connect it to larger, existing stories, such as the story of a state’s goals for postsecondary attainment, a state’s journey toward closing racial equity gaps, or a state’s vision for connecting small and rural communities,” the guide said.