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Our People-Centered Digital Future

By Adrian Rehn

On Monday, December 10, Valley Vision had the honor of joining an historic event with key Internet pioneers (pictured above are Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Vint Cerf, known as Father of the Internet), the People-Centered Internet coalition, and the next generation of positive change agents in a discussion of Our Shared Digital Future. Valley Vision joined the ranks of “The Brain Trust of Pioneers, Change Agents, And Agents of Courage” attending the conference at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California. The event was also lived streamed on YouTube in order for a global audience to participate.

Dubbed Our People-Centered Digital Future, the conference coincided with the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an announcement by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that 50-percent of the global population is now connected to the Internet. Announced at the event was the release of the World Economic Forum Paper: Our Shared Digital FutureAuthored by leaders from business, government, academic, and civil society, the paper stresses an urgent need for collaboration in order to shape a digital future that is beneficial for all. It defines a set of shared goals for action in the digital space and calls on global leaders to take action in shaping our digital future.

The six shared goals highlight what is needed in order to achieve an inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable digital future and provide a common framework across goals:

  1. Leave no person behind: ensuring high-quality internet access and adoption for all
  2. Empower users through good digital identities: ensuring that everyone can participate in the digital society through identity and access mechanisms that empower the user
  3. Make business work for people: helping companies navigate digital disruption and evolve to new responsible business models and practices
  4. Keep everyone safe and secure: shaping norms and practices that enable a technology-dependent environment that is secure and resilient
  5. Build new rules for a new game: developing new flexible, outcome based and participatory governance mechanisms to complement traditional policy and regulation
  6. Break through the data barrier: developing innovations that allow us to benefit from data while protecting the legitimate interests of all stakeholders

Valley Vision’s impact areas and work efforts intersect with several of these shared goals. Since 2009, Valley Vision has been working to close the Digital Divide and expand broadband access and adoption. In a world where information, education, jobs, healthcare, and other services are increasingly being accessed digitally, we risk allowing people who are disconnected from the Internet to fall further behind in the opportunity divide. Through our Connected Community Initiative, we aim to close this divide and provide equitable Internet access across the region.

Moreover, regional leaders, including the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the Metro Chamber, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, and Valley Vision, are collaborating to implement a Regional Prosperity Strategy centered on an inclusive economy. The strategy is based on research from Brookings, and helps chart a course to the Sacramento region’s future economic prosperity. A major imperative for equitable prosperity is investment in digital skills training. The region needs enhanced digital skills both to grow the pool of high-skill technical workers and to expand the number of workers that have basic digital literacy. Digital skills are needed both for well-trained computer and information technology professionals such as software developers and engineers; and in order for entry-level employees to meet basic job requirements for digital software like Excel and other programs.

Over the past year, Valley Vision has been leading a regional conversation around the Future of Work and how automation, digitalization, and the disruption created by technological advances will impact jobs and the region’s workforce. As a workforce intermediary, Valley Vision is partnering with educators and employers to assess current and anticipated future skills gaps and to deliver on an action plan to build a robust pipeline of qualified workers across multiple career education sectors including Information Communications Technologies (ICT); Advanced Manufacturing; Energy, Construction and Utilities; Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Water Technologies; and Health and Life Sciences.

Prescient for the Future of Work, it’s important to note that today ICT and Digital Media are integrated into almost every technology, industry and job. As noted in the Brookings report, close to three-quarters of occupations in the region now require high or medium levels of digital skills. Whereas 49-percent of middle skill jobs required medium or high levels of digital literacy 15-years ago, 87-percent of today’s jobs require these skills.

As we pursue the goal of getting the remaining 50-percent of the world’s population online, there is a great need for collaboration and urgent action to shape a digital future that is beneficial for all. Valley Vision looks forward to the continuing the advancement of this work and in securing an equitable digital future.

Tammy Cronin is a Valley Vision Project Leader working on the 21st Century Workforce and Broadband Access and Adoption.