Digital Literacy Pie Chart

Digital Literacy in the 21st Century: Our Lives Depends on it 

The year 2020 was an invaluable demonstration of how digital skills can help citizens connect, learn and engage with their neighbors, community and political leaders. The period has also opened a window on what our future in the digital world will look like. It highlighted the vital importance of having the digital skills necessary to engage in the new digital economy – an economy which will define our livelihoods for the next several decades. Today, it is absolutely imperative that the meaning of the term “literacy” be expanded to include some level of digital learning. 

While the basic concept of digital literacy is still based on reading and writing, the addition and use of technology to receive, send, analyze, and create, require a much broader skill set. The American Library Association’s digital literacy task force defines digital literacy as “The ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills”. Professor Hiller Spires at the University of North Carolina references digital literacy as having three levels – “finding and consuming digital content, creating digital content, and the ability to communicate and share digital content.” All this involves the ability to learn how to effectively use devices, software and the internet to collaborate with others and create, discover, to search for and use information. 

Digital Literacy Pie Chart

Going forward, digital literacy (having digital skills) will play a significant role in helping citizens to connect, learn, engage with communities, with co-workers and collaborate with team members in creating the future of the world we live in. It will enable citizens or individuals to gain the necessary digital skills that are paramount to engaging in today’s digital economy and improving one’s livelihood. In the 21st century, digital literacy is the new, required currency for national development.

Today, large technology companies like Qualcomm, Microsoft and Apple either offers or collaborates with universities to offer programs in digital literacy. Apple executives describe digital literacy as a “key to development of 21st century skills”.  Microsoft’s program is offered in twelve languages via on-line learning. The course is designed for anyone with basic reading skills who desire to learn the fundamental tools of digital technology. Apple partners with University of Southern California to offer “Digital Literacy: Faculty Edition”. The only problem is – the course material is only available in the ITunes U App for iPhone and iPad. The course focuses on integration of a variety of technology-based learning tools in curriculum planning to provide students with opportunities for interactive and engaging learning experience. Apple is also making large investment in digital literacy projects in several countries across the world.

A new collaboration between some of the top digital companies and universities in the United States, called Collaborative Leaders in Academia and Business (Capital CoLAB), plans to drive efforts to increase the number of graduates with refined digital skills, develop cutting-edge technology and improve innovation in the capital region, from Baltimore, Maryland to Richmond, Virginia. Companies such as McKinsey & Company, General Dynamics, Amazon, Northrop Grumman and JP Morgan Chase are involved with several Washington DC – Virginia – Maryland area colleges. The primary goal is engage more than 45, 000 students by the year 2025 – 50% of whom come from an underrepresented population. 

The collaboration will take a two-pronged approach. First, it will use credentialing to teach students skills relevant to what partner corporations believe will be useful in the working world. Second, it will showcase the latest technological innovations, research and thought-leadership coming from these companies.

To date, most of the discussions on digital literacy have focused the acquisition of digital skills. However, the rapid development of high speed internet (e.g. 5G) and social media is shifting the focus to mobile technologies and devises, in-car devices that can access the internet and social media while you drive, voice activated devices; artificial intelligence and home/business security have expanded the discussion into the basic springboard that will form the foundation of the next phase of the world’s economy – the New Knowledge-based or Digital Economy. Devices such as electric vehicles with all the social and mobile media currently available at home and in the office are about turn our world of work, communication and media consumption upside down.

So where do we go from here? – In reality, digital literacy is a lifelong learning process involving capacity building for using digital tools, communication tools and/or networks in creating, accessing, analyzing, managing, integrating, evaluating, and communicating information in order to function in a knowledge based economy, and in a society where “distance” is greatly minimized. Such lifelong learning has to begin urgently and occur at all levels of the learning curriculum, including continuing education for those who just need to catch up. The goal should be national and really simple – to create “digital citizens” who have the ability use technology to interact with the world around them, to communicate and collaborate with partners domestic and worldwide, and most important, to be able to participate in remote learning and to take advantage of remote work and other opportunities made possible by the new, enhanced knowledge-based economy.

Is It Time to get rid of your Limited Cell Phone Data Plan?

These days it has become extremely difficult to find a Cell Phone company that is not offering an unlimited data plan. Each plan is loaded with all kinds of caveats. For example, Verizon guarantees full-speed 4G LTE for the first 22GB of data each billing period. T-Mobile offers free text and data to its customers who travel in certain international countries. With all this happening around us, why then would anyone still have a limited data plan?
If you are thinking about looking into an unlimited plan, here are two links that can get you started:
If you happen to be one of what I call “Legacy” customers who still has limited data plan, the folks at have come up with seven ideas that can help some (especially) IPhone users reduce their data usage.
First, recognize the data consuming apps on your phone and restrict use when not needed.
1. Restrict iTunes and App Store downloads
You can prevent iTunes and the App Store from downloading music, movies, apps, and so on when you are away from a Wi-Fi signal. To do so, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store and toggle off Use Cellular Data. Tap this to prevent iTunes from using your cellular data for automatic downloads.
2. Disable background app refresh. IOS apps can update in the background, grabbing new content as they sit idle so they can show you the latest news when you return to them. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh in order to turn this setting off completely. You can also go the a la carte route from the list and choose which apps update in the background. Pick and choose the apps that may use data in the background of your phone, or turn them all off.
3. Find out which apps are using the most data
Go to Settings > Cellular and you can see how much data you’ve used in the current billing period and below that you’ll see a list of your apps. Under each app’s name is the amount of data it has used for the current billing period. You can toggle off any app that you think is eating more than its fair share.
4. Disable Wi-Fi Assist, This may be eating more cellular data than you would like
Wi-Fi Assist is a great feature where your iPhone hands off a weak Wi-Fi signal to your cellular network to prevent pages from loading slowly (or not at all) as it clings to the last remnants of a Wi-Fi signal. If you sit on the edge of a Wi-Fi network at work, say, then your cellular network may be assisting more than you’d like and running up data charges.
5. Download music, don’t stream
Streaming music or podcasts for long stretches when you are away from Wi-Fi can quickly add to your data usage. Most music and podcast apps (like Spotify, and Apple Music) let you restrict streaming to Wi-Fi only, which will then force you into the habit of downloading playlists or podcasts before playing them instead of streaming them over cellular data. Let’s look at Apple Music and Apple’s Podcasts apps as examples.
For Apple Music, go to Settings > Music. In the Streaming & Downloads section, you’ll see two settings if the first one is enabled. The first, Use Cellular Data, lets you disable streaming via a cellular connection entirely. If that’s too drastic a measure for you, then you can leave that setting enabled and turn off High Quality on Cellular to stream songs at a lower bitrate when you aren’t on Wi-Fi.
For the Podcasts app, go to Settings > Podcasts and turn off Cellular Data. You can also enable “Only -Download on Wi-Fi” to prevent podcast downloads from adding to your data usage.
6. Fetch mail less frequently
Check to see how frequently your email account is set to fetch new mail — the less frequently it fetches mail, the less data (and battery) you’ll use. Go to Settings > Mail > Accounts > Fetch New Data. First, make sure Push is turned off if you want to save data and don’t need new emails pushed to you constantly. Next, see what the schedule is for Fetch at the bottom of the screen. If you choose manually, then the Mail app will check for new email only when you open the app. Changing your Fetch schedule will not only save data, it may also save your phone’s battery life.
7. Use Safari’s Reading List
You can queue up articles while you’re using Wi-Fi to read later when you’re on a cellular connection or out of range completely. When you add a page to Safari’s Reading List, Safari downloads it for offline viewing. To add an article to the Reading List, tap the Share button at the center of the bottom navigation bar and then tap Add to Reading List. If you use iCloud, then it will share your Reading List with your other iOS devices, but you can stop it from sharing via a cellular connection by going to Settings > Safari and scrolling down to the bottom and toggling off Use Cellular Data for the Reading List feature.
Let me add an eight way to save data – become really familiar with the services offered (free) by Facebook, Google and other up-starters in the tech industry. They own apps like Messenger, Imo, WhatsApp, etc. that can help save on your phone bill. Also, note that most at home internet/cable providers i.e. Verizon and Xfinity now offer hotspots with free unlimited connections to their customers at locations away from home.