California Calls for Digital Literacy in Report and Action Plan

State Technology Update July 30, 2010

In response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Executive Order S-06-09 issued last May calling for the advancement of digital literacy in California, the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Digital Literacy Leadership Council has released a formal definition of digital literacy and a strategic plan for advancing digital literacy for residents of all ages. In doing so, California becomes one of the first states in the nation to formally define, develop and promote ways of ensuring that all Californians are capable of using digital technologies in their work and to support lifelong learning. The full report, titled “Digital Literacy Pathways in California,” can be found on the State Chief Information Officer’s website at  

“This Action Plan seeks to ensure that Californians can benefit from the power and promise of new technologies available, not only today but well into the future,” said State Chief Information Officer Teri Takai.  “Our work nicely dovetails with the Federal Communications Commission’s statement that digital literacy is a necessary life skill, much like the ability to read and write.”

“Having a digitally sophisticated workforce and aiming to close the ‘digital divide’ will have tremendous benefits for our economy and the state as we compete in the global marketplace,” added Victoria Bradshaw, Secretary of California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

“Advancing digital literacy is absolutely critical in the 21st century educational landscape to ensure California’s students are prepared to compete in the global marketplace,” said California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss.  

 The Leadership Council is chaired by the State Chief Information Officer and includes the Governor’s Cabinet Secretaries for Education, Labor and Workforce Development, Business, Transportation and Housing, and State and Consumer Services.  

 The report defines digital literacy as “a lifelong learning process of capacity building for using digital technology, communications tools, and/or networks in creating, accessing, analyzing, managing, integrating, evaluating, and communicating information in order to function in a knowledge-based economy and society”.  The definition of Digital Literacy adopted by the Leadership Council reflects a desire for knowledge, skills and competencies that go beyond the technical operations of a computer or other technology device. 

“Whether it is an elementary school student in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood learning how to navigate web pages or an architect becoming proficient in the latest computer assisted drafting program, we want to ensure that Californians have the digital literacy tools they need to thrive,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, a non-profit established by the California Public Utilities Commission to close the Digital Divide in California, that convened a broad spectrum of stakeholders who sponsored the Digital Literacy Executive Order.  “Governor Schwarzenegger put California in the national forefront of digital literacy by signing this Executive Order and we are grateful to his Administration and the Legislature for their support in ensuring that Californians will have 21st Century skills to compete for good-paying jobs,” she added.

“Technology is of increasing importance in people's everyday lives and that presence will most certainly increase in the coming years.  No longer relegated to specialized workplace settings, information and communication technologies have become increasingly common in community settings, at school, and at home. Our everyday life  has been transformed by ICT. As a result, the notion of a literate populace must be expanded to include the technology-based skills and abilities that will enable citizens to function in an increasingly technological world,” said Barbara O’Connor, Chair of The Digital Transformation Taskforce for Educational Testing Service and Director of the California Emerging Technology Fund.

The Action Plan and Report were informed by the earlier work of the California Emerging Technology Fund Committee. Faculty and students in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara assisted with research and conceptualization of the plan, along with other representatives from key organizations and state agencies, and the Director of the K20 California Educational Technology Collaborative facilitated the development of the plan and the writing of the final report. . 

 As called for in the Governor’s Executive Order, the Digital Literacy Action Plan:

  • Defines the basic elements of Digital Literacy,
  • Describes and articulates a "continuum" of skills required for Digital Literacy,
  • Develops strategies and actions for incorporating Digital Literacy into workforce training statewide,
  • Develops strategies and actions for incorporating Digital Literacy into K-12 and higher education,
  • Outlines acceptable frameworks for assessment and certification,
  • Recommends curricula consistent with the assessment frameworks,
  • Provides a timeline for implementation of the Action Plan; and
  • Identifies metrics to ascertain the achievement of ICT Digital Literacy.

The Action Plan is consistent with the recommendations of the California Broadband Task Force Report, The State of Connectivity Building Innovation Through Broadband, released in January, 2008.  The Task Force was created by Governor Schwarzenegger to bring experts from government and business together to identify and eliminate obstacles to making broadband access universal in the state.  The final report included recommendations to increase services statewide, including maps of current broadband availability and speeds.  It also developed recommendations on how to achieve universal access and increased use and a timeframe to meet those goals.  

Contact:  Bill Maile (916) 549-2845