A Resilient Oakland: How Struggle Inspired Opportunity
Story by Shaun Tai, Written by Shaun Tai and Jennifer Warren
In Dec 2010, my mother Jane Tai was managing her Oakland small business when she was robbed by two young men at gunpoint. She wasn’t physically hurt, but the event compounded problems she was already experiencing. In addition to being a victim of crime, my mom found it difficult to reach new customers outside her generation. Owner of a furniture design studio at 26th and Broadway—her family business of 46 years—she had been left behind by the digital revolution, like many local businesses.
There were two serious issues at hand: Youth in Oakland lacked professional opportunities, and small businesses faced extinction due to unique challenges caused by the increasingly digital economy. Inspired to discover a solution, I envisioned connecting overlooked community college students to business owners like my mom, who were in need of graphic design and social marketing.
Others supported the same vision of collaboration and change for Oakland. Together, we channeled our relentless passion for design and technology into Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center, a community-driven digital marketing agency and nonprofit. The cause to educate, inspire, and empower underserved communities to succeed in the digital economy has snowballed into an organic growing movement. This year we are in the first phase of launching BRIDGEGOOD, an online marketplace that will scale and sustain the vision set forth by Oakland Digital.
Join us to improve the lives of small businesses and students nationwide — visit OaklandDigital.org, email email@example.com, or call 510-435-2945.
Oakland Digital Kicks Up Efforts to Bridge The Digital Literacy Divide. Takes Leadership Role in Nationwide Campaign, “ItsEasierThanYouThink”. Urges Digital Citizens to Sign Obama Administration Petition.
The United States faces a Digital Literacy education and skills gap that leaves over 60 Million Americans from utilizing the Internet in their daily lives. Oakland Digital, along with coorganizers launch Awareness and Petition Campaign Designed to Improve Digital Literacy Skills in the U.S. – from Students to Small Businesses.
OAKLAND, CALIF. August 30, 2013 – Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center (Oakland Digital), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization delivering volunteer-based classes and on-site labs for young adults and local businesses, today announced, in concert with TRAIL and other campaign partners, the launch of a national campaign and White House targeted petition designed to raise awareness, and reduce the plight of millions of Americans disconnected from the digital economy.
Oakland Digital, formed in 2009, serves as a successful community supported model working with local governments and technology leaders to bridge the digital literacy divide.
“Nearly 25,000 new Oakland businesses were launched in 2012. In every case digital technologies offered significant value”, says Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. “Unfortunately, not all are proficient or have the know-how to harness its application. On-the-ground Digital Literacy programs led by Oakland Digital, and their work within the small business community plays a vital role in providing the boost individuals need to bridge the gap.”
The United States faces a digital divide, a skills gap that prevents over 60 million Americans from utilizing the Internet in their daily lives. 1 in 5 Americans say they do not know enough about technology to start using the Internet on their own. Online skills are not only necessary for seeking, applying for and getting today’s jobs, but also to take advantage of the growing educational, civic and health-care advances spurred by broadband.
“ItsEasierThanYouThink,” a new national digital literacy awareness campaign, officially kicks off Monday, September 2, 2013 with a White House petition and several public service announcement (PSA) videos addressing the education factors that contribute to the online education and skills gap in America.
The Goals of the “ItsEasierThanYouThink” Digital Literacy Campaign:
- Raise awareness with the public about the issue of digital literacy;
- Urge the Obama Administration to adopt a national digital literacy policy;
- Empower non-Internet users with the tools they need to get online; and
- Providing the online community with resources to take action on this important issue
“Most of us in the tech world take the ability to open a browser, conduct a search, or make a post on a social network, for granted”, says Shaun Tai, Executive Director of Oakland Digital. “But to some, it’s a fear right up there with public speaking. The digitally underserved require the tools and assistance needed to become active participants in the information economy.”
Oakland Digital has played an integral role in advancing the importance of digital literacy by hosting community discussions, educational programs, and hands-on classes for small business owners and students in the San Francisco Bay Area. To date, the center has empowered over 2,200 digital citizens.
“Becoming a digital citizen has meant the world to me,” says Tonya McKinnis, owner of Blacky’s Haircare in East Oakland, CA. “Through working with Oakland Digital’s Digital Equity 2013 program, I’m now inspired about my business online and my future.”
Your Voice Matters – Get Involved:
Sign and circulate the White House Petition to adopt a national #DigitalLiteracy policy with your friends and constituents by visiting http://www.itseasierthanyouthink.org/.
Digital Literacy Awareness Campaign
Digital Literacy Facts & Figures:
- 60 MILLION AMERICANS do not know how to use the Internet. This figure is surpasses over 5 billion people worldwide who cannot participate in our information economy.
- THE US RANKS 7TH when it comes to Internet adoption worldwide. We are the world’s largest economy, and we are not the leader when it comes to Internet adoption.
- OVER 80 PERCENT of Fortune 500 companies require that applicants submit job applications online. This means the largest companies in the United States require digital literacy skills.
- ONLY 57 PERCENT of African-American households use the Internet compared to 67% of White American households according to the Department of Commerce.
- SLIGHTLY OVER HALF of Americans ages 65 and older use the Internet. They are missing out on critical services and opportunities.
- 27 BILLION DOLLARS in economic opportunity could lie ahead if we work to get the world’s population online and using the Internet.
- 1 IN 5 AMERICANS say they don’t know enough about technology to start using the Internet on their own. They have no one to teach them how to get online.
- ONLY 43 PERCENT of those without a high school education are online and only sixty-two percent of those who make less than $30,000/year are online.
- DIGITAL LITERACY IS a gate skill, demanded by many employers when they first evaluate a job application. It is also a catalyst for many other important life skills.
About The Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center
The Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center (Oakland Digital), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, working to increase digital literacy among local design students, small business owners and entrepreneurs. The center provides hands-on educational classes free of charge to the community. For small businesses physically located in Oakland, Oakland Digital holds a three-month “Digital Equity” program, which teaches business owners how to effectively leverage digital-marketing tools in support of their business goals. The program is targeted toward people over 40. Get involved with Oakland Digital by visiting www.oaklanddigital.org.