The State Digital Equity Scorecard shows the extent to which states address digital equity and provides data on each state's digital opportunity gap. The digital scorecard ranks states in the following six areas: Data on Digital Skill Needs, Comprehensive Plan to Address Digital Skill Gaps, Online Digital Skills Training, Incumbent Worker Training Funds, Technology Apprenticeships, and State Broadband Plans.
While Florida's Digital Equity Score is 2.5, the Office of Broadband has been created within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and is engaging communities to address digital equity and create a plan. A review of the top scoring states suggests promising practices for states like Florida that are beginning to implement programs to increase digital equity. The top states are:
- Washington Score 6.0
- North Carolina Score 5.7
- California Score 5.5
- Rhode Island Score 5.3
- Colorado Score 5.2
- Hawaii Score 5.2
Washington and North Carolina collect robust data on digital skill needs for in-demand jobs using data from online ads to determine specific skills and education required for top occupations and certifications. Washington, North Carolina, and Colorado have launched comprehensive plans to address digital skills gaps. These efforts include recommendations for worker upskilling and lifelong learning, a Digital Inclusion Plan Template and Guide focusing on marginalized communities, and creating policy solutions to increase digital equity at the individual, local, and state levels.
Top scoring states provide free online digital skills training using Microsoft IT Academy, LinkedIn Learning, and the free online learning platform Alison, leveraged on workforce recruitment sites, state library systems, and county social services agencies.
In Colorado, a promising initiative called OnwardCO has been developed by companies, foundations, and state players working to provide upskilling with resources integrated with the Department of Labor and Employment website, which also acts as a resource hub. Incumbent Worker Training Funds (IWTF) are generally only available for foundational skills in customized job competencies if they are part of other training.
Apprenticeships appear to be a significant tool for reskilling and upskilling and have been funded in several states with US Department of Labor grants. In North Carolina, an Innovation Apprenticeship was launched to recruit and prepare participants, link them with industry partners, and grow the diversity of the AI workforce. The Colorado Community College System was awarded $2M from USDOL, where four private sector employers and ten educational institutions will make 14 high-wage occupations accessible to 1,600 adults.
For States to receive points for their Broadband Plans, they must pay attention to marginalized and disadvantaged populations, create goals and objectives to increase affordability, address increasing device accessibility or ownership for households, and recognize the need for increasing digital literacy. In addition, they must recognize the need for specific individual support and recommend funding assistance to local digital inclusion programs. California and Washington meet all these criteria.
While approximately 9.8 million workers are unemployed in the US, 3.3 million of these workers lack the foundational skills to compete for more than 75.2% of job openings that require digital skills. Digital Equity is a compelling workforce issue that must be addressed collaboratively by governments, businesses, local communities, nonprofit organizations, and foundations.