La. Heads of State Announce Major Investment in Broadband Internet Expansion and Digital Literacy Program

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – Louisiana state leaders announced a $130 million investment from the America Rescue Plan to bring more affordable and accessible internet to more than 66,000 households and small businesses through Internet service providers in 50 parishes.

Applications for the first phase of the grant were submitted through Louisiana’s broadband grant program called Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO).

The total investment of the American rescue plan is 176 million dollars. 130 million dollars will be used for the first phase.

“There are hundreds and thousands of people in Louisiana, a state of 4 million people, who don’t know how to use the internet successfully, or maybe don’t even have access to it,” said Dr. Kim Hunter Reed.

To address the approximately 462,000 Louisianans who lack basic digital literacy skills, ConnectLA, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Louisiana Department of Education, and the State Library of Louisiana have partnered to establish pilot programs in multiple parishes to reduce the digital illiteracy rate in these parishes by 50% in five years.

Today, the Higher Education Commissioner, Dr Kim Hunter Reed, announced the launch of five integrated digital literacy and inclusion pilot sites in rural and urban library branches. The pilot sites are designed not only to increase access to high-speed digital resources, but also to improve the general computer and Internet literacy of people living near these libraries. The parishes hosting the five digital literacy and inclusion pilot sites include East Carroll, Jefferson, Livingston, Rapides and West Feliciana.

“Whether you’re trying to fill out a FEMA form, trying to apply to college, trying to apply for a job, or maybe even ordering groceries or having a telehealth visit with a doctor, the ability to connect and do the work you need to do or aspire to do requires a level of digital literacy,” Dr. Reed said.

Each site is set to receive $20,000 to assess the digital literacy needs of its community and provide educational opportunities such as skills assessment, self-directed online learning and digital skills building. These activities will be carried out by a team of 55 professional librarians and staff appointed to serve as digital navigators (DN). The pilot site DNSs have already completed more than 11 hours of training through the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Northstar Digital Literacy to ensure the successful launch of each program’s activities.

“It was a group effort, and I think it’s something that’s going to help the parish in the long run,” West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard said.

Click here to report a typo.

Copyright 2022 WAFB. All rights reserved.

Comments are closed.