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J-School launches program to teach digital literacy skills to underserved populations

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fifteen percent of U.S. citizens and 17 percent of Kansas Citians do not use the internet, which puts them at a disadvantage in finding jobs, accessing health information, connecting with family and friends, and having other basic services that most people use the internet for on a daily basis.

That’s why Hyunjin Seo, associate professor of journalism at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, has started the Digital Inclusion Project – to help underserved populations gain access to the internet through hands-on digital literacy courses.

“Through conversations with community partners, we came up with this partnership idea,” said Seo.  “Because this project will involve KU journalism students working as digital inclusion ambassadors, I think it benefits both our community partners, the people they serve and also students in the J-School.”

Seo launched the project a couple of weeks ago at LaunchKU.org and is seeking $50,000 through crowd funding. The money will pay KU journalism students to provide computer training to people at three nonprofit organizations, the Palestine Senior Citizens Activity Center in Kansas City, Missouri, the Kansas City Kansas Public Library, and Women’s Fresh Start in Lawrence.

"They will offer weekly workshops on digital literacy -- how to create an email account, how to find out health information relevant to you, how to stay connected with your family members via social media sites,” Seo said.

J-School faculty members also will conduct research on how people learn digital skills so that they can improve and develop programs in the future.

Ann M. Brill, dean of the School of Journalism, said digital literacy skills are no longer a luxury; they are a necessity.

“The digital inclusion project is empowering people and saying it’s not enough just to show you, we want you to really become good at this so you can change your life,” Brill said. "It's another opportunity for us to engage with the community. I think this project is one of the most meaningful things that I have seen in a long time. This is empowering people to use information in a way that can possibly change their lives."

Seo hopes to get the project funded by the end of the year so that journalism students can complete training in the spring and the digital literacy project can be offered starting in summer 2017.

► Watch a video about the project and donate. 

Julie Adam

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