In the age of digital technology, lifelong learning is more possible than ever. Digital technologies make possible a vast new array of learning opportunities. Anyone with computer access and an internet connection can obtain information from news sources around the world, explore materials in the Library of Congress, or access open courseware for MIT engineering classes. Opportunities for learning are so abundant that they are likely to overwhelm the modest Google
search; a request to “learn German free online” turns up over 16 million hits.

The growth of digital technologies have also created an increased need for lifelong learning.
Those employed in todays economy will change lifelonglearning-olderadultedparticipants-largejobs frequently during their professional lifetimes. According to a 2014 article in Fortune, the “tenure length for U.S. employees at individual firms” is now 4.6 years, while young millennials who graduated between 2000 and 2005 are expected to change jobs four times during their first ten years of their career.[2] As demands and responsibilities shift with each job, employees require continuous re-training and new skill development, most of which they are expected to accomplish rapidly and independently. Lifelong learning is becoming a requirement, demanded and supplied by digital technologies.

What does this mean for New Mexico? Like other largely rural states, New Mexico has many communities that lag in broadband adoption and use, resulting in a large statewide digital divide.[3] For the many New Mexicans who lack basic levels of digital skill, this means that they will also find themselves unprepared to acquire new skills through independent learning and online inquiry. To address this double gap, New Mexico must implement an aggressive training program that not only teaches basic skills but targets capacity building that will enable new users to become independent learners. Without this additional skill base, the benefits from broadband adoption and use will not be sustainable, and the digital divide will reopen as these communities slip back into the wrong side of the gap.

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[2] Guy Berger, “Will This Year’s College Grads Job-Hop More Than Previous Grads.LinkedIn Official Blog 12 April 2016.

[3] According to calculations done by the Intelligent Communities Institute at the Mississippi State University Extension office, New Mexico is in the lowest quartile of the country in rates of infrastructure and digital adoption and the socioeconomic indicators (rurality, poverty, low educational achievement) predictive of those rates. See Roberto Gallardo, “2014 Digital Divide Index.” Report from the Intelligent Communities Institute, Mississippi State University Extension.