Helen calls for a digital-era Works Progress Administration (the old WPA from the New Deal started in the 1930s) so that, as she puts it, “Our next president can help reconstruct America’s fragmented and relatively weak public communications infrastructure by using the most effective tool our youth wield — the power and depth of their digital fluency.”
Let’s build out a networked public commons as an opportunity for employment-starved, debt-ridden Millennials to work in teams, develop community based projects, and hone skills that will rebuild our competitiveness with countries overseas. My favorite part is the suggestion that these Millennials can teach older Americans how to use the tools as well!
And just as I was beginning to question the need for government intervention in an effort like this, Helen finishes her post with this sentence, “How this investment in our future would be implemented — including public and private partnerships — is a debate well worth having.”
At its core, the idea reminded of the effort that Lance Bennett is spearheading in Seattle called Engaged Youth: Civic Learning Online. But, of course, the difference is one of scale. It is more likely in this century that large foundations will invest in a nationwide initiative like this rather than the federal government. But Helen’s question is a good one: Is that the right order of things?