Dr. Rick Huijbregts' Blog Posts

Digital Literacy. #DLDayTO

It is Thursday May 31st, 2018. This morning, Mayor John Tory and Councillor Michelle Holland are declaring this day to be Toronto's "Digital Literacy Day". This is as exciting as it is important.

This takes me back one year, almost to the day. The Federation of Municipalities was hosting its Annual Conference a in Ottawa. I already had left Cisco, but still attended the conference in celebration of the great work our two organizations had done to promote 'smart cities' to Mayors and Councillors from across the country, culminating in the launch of the FCM Innovation Network. The weather was quite nice. Before the sessions started on the second day, I would meet with Councillor Holland for breakfast or coffee--I don't remember breakfast, but coffee for sure.

Six months earlier, Councillor Holland had become Toronto's first-ever "Advocate for the Innovation Economy". Already we had compared notes and so vigorously agreed to the need for increased advocacy and improved collaboration between public sector and private sector to celebrate and promote a booming technology cluster and innovation economy. The talk in the town at the time was dominated by the large technology companies, start-ups that had grown into success stories, and the emergence of incubators and accelerators.

As we were discussing, on this beautiful morning in Ottawa, how to take the bourgeoning innovation economy to new heights, we quickly came to realization that the sector wasn't representative of everything and everybody that makes Toronto the city it is: a global city with its many neighborhoods as different and diverse as the people in them.

The digital disruption that catalyzed our digital economy (~ the Fourth Industrial Revolution) will alter the economic and social landscape in Toronto as jobs get automated and AI is becoming increasingly mainstream. Conversely, new jobs will be created as new innovations, businesses, and industries are formed.

It seems, however, that the newly created jobs aren't necessarily filled by those that have lost theirs due to automation and the digital transformation of employers. Consequently, maybe more than ever before, people may get left behind and the economic gap between pockets of our society will grow.

It was by the second or third coffee that it was clear that something needed to be done - and that by advocating for the innovation economy, we had to ensure that nobody was going to be left behind, and everyone would have an opportunity to participate in and take advantage of the growing digital economy.

And by 'everyone', we meant 'everyone'.

Being successful in a digital tomorrow will require the need for a new set of skills and capabilities. RBC and the Brookfield Institute (and almost everyone else) recognize that investment needs to be made in developing "human skills" such as collaboration, communication, creativity, teamwork, etc. Joseph Aoun, who was visiting Toronto earlier this week in honor of the festivities around our today's Digital Literacy Day, speaks of three new essential literacies: human literacy, data literacy, and… digital literacy.

So when we celebrate, promote, and seek to grow our innovation economy, so also we have to focus on developing these new literacies to ensure everyone can participate in the exciting and turbulent times ahead of us.

The idea of a day to recognize this, and to bring together public and private sector to elevate and improve the digital literacy of all Torontonians, was born. Today, I make myself believe that the coffees we had in Ottawa created the spark that became a flame, and what today has become Toronto's "Digital Literacy Day".

Congratulations Michelle for spearheading and championing this. Kudo's to your team and Toronto's department of Economic Development for engaging more than 30 organizations that are doing their part to promote digital literacy and engage the broader Toronto community. Today, more than 140 events are being hosted - many of them in the most logical and accessible place for everyone in the city: the Toronto Public Library. Once again, Chief Librarian Vickery Bowles is demonstrating the amazing reach and impact the public library has as it relates to connecting and supporting ALL Torontonians.

George Brown College is a proud founding partner of this important day.

Today we team with the Toronto Public Library and Cisco to deliver basic digital training (including digital literacy, cyber security for beginners, entrepreneurship) through a video network across many of the 100 libraries in the City, providing equal access to all Torontonians in all corners of the City. Our School of IT is also engaging 100s of students from the Toronto District School Board to help teach the important skills of coding and computer technologies. We proudly also launch a cyber security class in the evenings through our School of Continuous Education, and a first of its kind Blockchain development certificate.

At George Brown College, we are educators and city-builders. It is our job to help develop and elevate all literacies (including human, data, and digital) and to make sure that we prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow in order for us all to take be equal part in a thriving economy.

We are proud to do so, and excited to be part of today's inaugural "Digital Literacy Day".

#DigitalLiteracy #MichelleHolland #CityofToronto #Toronto #GeorgeBrownCollege #TorontoPublicLibrary #Literacy #Humanskills #FCM

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