As America’s technology sector continues to evolve, people are now left trying to figure out the digital tools required for their jobs, hobbies, and passions.  No longer are people denied access to the digital ecosystem, but instead, people are being denied the ability to problem solve, make decisions and navigate their environment. The denial of access is due to a lack of education and digital readiness. In order for our collective collaboration across various online channels to accelerate and deepen as a society, digital readiness needs to be an important component in individual lifestyles.

Why the Lack of Digital Readiness is Ruining America

For the past two and a half years I’ve been working with a variety of individuals when it comes to digital literacy levels. Digital literacy refers to one’s capability for understanding technology, the digital ecosystem, and the laws or common practices that reign throughout. There’s also another measurement for capacity in our digital ecosystem which is digital readiness. Digital readiness is one’s preparedness for the use of technology and digital frameworks. Low digital literacy can eventually lead to a bondfire. A bondfire is a term I have coined to describe the situation most businesses/individuals find themselves in once they have reached low levels of digital readiness and digital literacy. Some signs you could be in a bondfire include a lack of motivation, manual processes, confusion when it comes to technology, and disorganized strategic planning.

The problem is people are not prepared for the digital ecosystem we now live in. The anticipation for new technology has led to a lack of education and digital readiness. The “digital divide” is no longer centered on a lack of access to online resources and new technology. The divide now exists in whether people succeed or struggle in using digital tools to navigate their environments, solve problems, and make decisions. 

The Divide Affecting Society

The gaps in digital readiness affect certain disadvantaged communities and the shortage of diversity. Several large tech companies like Google,  Facebook, and Amazon all push for diversity in the workforce. Diversity at work has been limited because of a lack of digital readiness in key activities like looking and applying for a job.  How can diversity be achieved if minorities aren’t trained and educated in the use of technology? 

A recent Pew Research Center report explains that the “adoption of technology for adult learning in both personal and job-related activities varies by people’s socio-economic status, their race and ethnicity, and their level of access to home broadband and smartphones.” Americans are not on the same level when it comes to accessing and understanding technology. We must address the divide and adapt resources to fit the needs of certain communities.

Measuring the Divide

According to a Pew Research study, there are three important factors that show whether one has a high level of digital readiness or not. Skills, trust, and use are all measurable outcomes that contribute to digital readiness. Skills are measurable through the practical application of technology and software. Trust is measurable through one’s familiarity and emotional connection with technology or digital tools. Uses are measurable through one’s practical application in regards to technology and software when pursuing personal and business objectives online.

According to the research study, only 17% of Americans are digitally ready, 31% are still cautious clickers and 43% of Americans are either unprepared or uneducated when it comes to digital readiness. 103 million Americans have low levels of digital readiness. The time is now for society to recognize low levels of digital readiness and its effects on the populus as our world moves more and more online.

Are you at a disadvantage?

 How can you be more digitally ready or know that you are at a disadvantage? Well here is a quick exercise you can go through by yourself. Read each question and rate from 1 to 10. Write it down and calculate your overall score.

  • How confident am I when using new technology or digital tools?
  •  How often do I collaborate online for work and other activities?
  •  Do I trust software companies with my information?
  •  if I were asked to input my name and email address, how willing would I be to give my personal information away?
  •  How often do I use online tools and acquire new technology?

If your score is below 15 then you are definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to digital readiness. Landing your score between 16 and 30 means you are mildly disadvantaged when it comes to digital readiness. If you scored above 30 then you may be in a better position than most people when it comes to digital readiness. 

When Your Born Sometimes Matters

Now I want to first start off this paragraph by saying the life expectancy in the US has doubled in the past century. The increase in life expectancy has led to people living longer and are therefore going through more transitions in technology than any generation before. From my experience, older people tend to have a harder time with technology.

Millennials tend to have a common grasp on basic technology usage, Yet, every generation afterward continues to improve in their digital literacy. Still, there are lots of millennials who struggle with digital readiness more than baby boomers. Digital readiness has nothing to do with when you are born but stems from your adaptability, learning style, and openness to new innovations in technology.

Don’t Skip This Part!

Before we dive into some of the practical applications to increase digital readiness, I want to first talk about mindset. To increase digital readiness, you must have the mindset of a constant learner. If you do not want to learn, experiment, and create then you will never dominate digital and will be at a serious disadvantage in the near future. 

In order to have the mindset of a constant learner, one must start with recognizing that the digital ecosystem is constantly changing. The world is not the same as it used to be and is ever-evolving.  Second, you must understand that the digital ecosystem that runs our world is a giant experiment. Everyone is testing their hypothesis and theories with the creation and iteration of ideas. There is no one way to function in our digital ecosystem today. Try new things and tinker for yourself and you may find a new way to help yourself and others. Third, you must be willing to learn through hands-on experience and be not just an experimenter, but a builder.  Everyone is creative so take your new-found energy and explore the new Wild West that is the digital ecosystem.

Increase Digital Readiness

As more and more people around the globe have access to the internet and use it regularly, it’s important that the general populace is educated and trusting of new adaptations in online communities and digital tools.  Let’s dive into each of these areas and find new ways we can increase our digital readiness.

Online Communities

Forums, social media, virtual hangouts, and others all contribute to online communities. The first way you can increase your digital readiness is by engaging in online communities. Before you start posting every day on social media or join Nextdoor, there is a spectrum for healthy engagement you should be aware of. Below are some examples of bad engagement and some of the known side effects. 

Bad Engagement

  1. Avoid becoming fully encapsulated with YouTube comments, Reddit, or Twitter
  2. Avoid Facebook comment debates with random strangers.
  3. Avoid sending money to people you don’t know through PayPal.

Side Effects

  • Becoming isolated from real relationships
  • Cyberbullying
  • Lacking real connection
  • Change in mood or emotional stability 

Online communities can become swamps of toxic people who are socially isolated and don’t contribute to society in any way. If you have friends or family who believe in conspiracy theories, ghost stories, or historically inaccurate events you can most likely contribute their disillusion to the online communities they are apart of. Yet in a healthy context, online communities can form deeper relationships across borders and help build dynamic working relationships. Below are some examples of good engagement and some of the known side effects. 

Good Engagement

  1. Take a hobby or side hustle and find a community of others who are pursuing/engaging in the same things you are
  2.  Subscribe to blogs or podcasts related to areas you want to grow in
  3. Buy and sell things on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or eBay

Side Effects

  • Accountability in achieving your goals
  • Emotional support
  • Networking
  • Deeper real-world relationships 
  • Extra cash

Some of the online communities I’m engaged in our Indie Hackers, Facebook, Instagram, and other online forums pertaining to my hobbies. I also have been buying and selling online for years which has helped me meet cool people and make extra cash. I read several blogs a day and subscribe to several newsletters that help me focus on my goals. Find a healthy balance in an online community and you will see what it means to truly thrive in the digital ecosystem. 

Digital Tools

There are lots of productivity software that help us with business or personal pursuits. From CRMs that help us manage our customers to digital whiteboards that help us express our creativity, we need not rely only on our hands to get things done in today’s digital ecosystem. Some of the most basic digital tools that should be in your arsenal are Microsoft Office, Google Suite, and messaging platforms.  

Microsoft

Microsoft Office includes Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and others that help you get work done. Most people have been educated in the use of Microsoft Office but people of older generations have only been introduced through work or business. You generally have to pay for a license to download this software but most of the time if you are a student or an employee you can get it for free. 

Google

The Google Suite takes productivity up another level with everything being stored in the cloud. The cloud is a mass of computer warehouses used for housing digital pieces of information. I have a friend who was working on a Google data warehouse in Tennessee. One summer I visited him and got to see this massive set of warehouses. The whole site was huge and extremely complicated. I was also told about the extreme security measures used for those working on-site. After hearing about the 30 min process just to get into the warehouse, I started to trust Google a little more. The Google Suite consists of Gmail, Google Photos, Google’s version of Microsoft Office, and others. 

Messaging

Online messaging platforms are used for communication both personally and in a business environment. Slack is a messaging platform used for business communication and learning groups. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, is a messaging platform popular around the globe for its ease-of-use and simple texting interface. Gmail is a common email messaging platform along with Outlook that is used for both business and personal communication. 

 

Conclusion 

In order for our collective collaboration across various online channels to accelerate and deepen as a society, digital readiness needs to be an important component in individual lifestyles. There are a lot of dreamers in this world. People who have ideas that will make a lasting difference or innovate a particular sector or industry. If you have ideas in your mind that you want to implement to increase digital readiness and avoid/put out a bondfire, please connect with me, and let’s talk to see if we are a good fit!

Disadvantaged communities and the shortage of diversity in the workforce can be fought if individuals start to recognize that the future is already here. The digital ecosystem of the future has arrived and exists in the present moment. I would encourage you to take some time and create a strategy. Bring someone else along as accountability so you can start to learn, experiment, and create using some of the resources above and increase your digital readiness.