Addressing Financial and Digital Inclusion Together
By Liesl Seborg | August 2019
Senior Librarian, Salt Lake County Library
I do a lot of my banking online. I pay bills online and have automatic pay set up for my utilities, insurance and mortgage payments. My paycheck is automatically deposited into my bank account by my employer. I have passwords for days and secondary authentication on accounts that allow it. I make sure that I am on a safe device or network when I do these transactions and am confident in my security and knowing how to handle my financial world online. And I am not alone. Many people across the globe are banking and conducting financial transactions online day.
However, many of my parents’ generation do not trust these online tools. There is distrust of the internet itself, and I can see their point. There are scammers and fraudsters nearly everywhere we look these days. Pop up ads and false emails leading us places that may hack our computers. Phishing and “threats” from the IRS. Requests from loved ones to send cash. Seniors are heavily targeted by criminals because, in some ways, they are less familiar with what can and cannot be done online.
New arrivals, refugees and immigrants, may also be susceptible to these attacks due to an unfamiliarity with English, US laws, and financial practices and, in some cases, the online world in general. Resettlement agencies are taking important steps to mitigate these challenges using resources for financial literacy, digital literacy, and life skills. While most agencies use multiple curricula for this formal and informal instruction, in the Salt Lake Valley, they all reference the Family Prosperity Initiative curriculum designed under a Smart Investing@your library® grant.
In additional to numeracy and basic financial skills, this curriculum also addresses conducting financial transactions online and fraud awareness. There is a gradual buildup of skills to reach this level where confidence and a financial literacy foundation are solid.
Digital Literacy is much the same in that skills build upon each other until one has confidence in the methods and functions of essential tools. When one begins to shop or bank online, digital skills and financial skills come into play and necessarily overlap. Hopefully, a healthy dose of skepticism and fraud awareness is balancing convenience during these transactions.
Digital skills and financial skills are learned and then honed through practice and real life application. When one does not have regular digital access, one is not able to do these refinement and honing of skills. I am comfortable online because I have been able to practice my skills regularly, both at work and in my personal life. I am fortunate. There are people in our community who are less fortunate and do not have daily access, or opportunity, to explore and practice their skills online.
Technological progress and efficiency are forcing people online who do not have the skills for success. One must go online to file for unemployment benefits, to access health information, and to apply for jobs. More employers require direct deposit for paychecks and federal benefits are expanding their online platforms. Libraries, schools, and community organizations are stepping in to help with access and learning and some businesses are rallying to help provide community members with needed resources.
Banking is mobile. Shopping is online. We need to be sure of our financial and digital foundations as we step into the online world and we need to make sure no one is left behind