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The Internet is a world of unlimited potential and opportunity. And while there are those who would use it in a negative way, there are more who utilize this amazing technology for good connecting those who cannot afford to buy their own computers to their loved ones. One of these people is Daniel Kent, whose life is an extraordinary story of passion and commitment.
Daniel Kent is a social entrepreneur and philanthropist who is most famous for founding Net Literacy, a non-profit organization run by students that aims to fight illiteracy by promoting education through the use of the Internet. Through the efforts of Net Literacy, Daniel has been able to reach over two hundred thousand individuals by providing them computer access through encouraging both the private and public sectors in participating in giving computers, so much so that his organization’s work has been cited by the European Union’s Commission on Digital Inclusion’s Report as one that has the best practices.
Daniel’s amazing effort in promoting digital literacy and digital inclusion has caused him to have significant influence with a number of government officials, who through Daniel’s suggestion has enacted resolutions that would help expand the coverage of digital literacy and digital inclusion.
The Net Literacy organization has been endorsed by numerous Internet associations (represented by over two hundred seventy thousand Internet companies on six continents), who endorse the Net Literacy’s digital literacy best practices website, and Daniel has been an author for several ‘white papers’ on technology issues such as Broadband Adoption, Digital Literacy and Inclusion.
Apart from this, Daniel, through his active involvement in the affairs of Net Literacy, has been key in contributing to teaching job and life skills to over three thousand five hundred student volunteers, and has donated over twenty thousand computers to people who do not have access to them.
As a result of his unrelenting support and fight for the right to digital literacy and inclusion, Daniel has been recognized as a youth world leader in the area of technological advancement. He has received a number of awards and recognitions for his services, which include winning a Jefferson Award for Public Service, the President’s Volunteer Service Award (which Daniel received from the then sitting President George W. Bush), a Daily Points of Light Award, and a Citizen of the Year Award.
Daniel has also been included in the list of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America, and the 10 Young Activists Changing the World by Complex Media. These recognitions simply prove just how great the achievements Daniel has been able to accomplish in just a span of around ten years, which is extraordinary for an organization that was founded by students.
Net Literacy’s work in digital literacy and digital inclusion is not just focused students and the youth; Daniel’s main aim in founding Net Literacy was to bridge the great divide between the older and younger generations through the use of the Internet.
Daniel knows and firmly believes that the opportunity of net literacy is something that should be available to all, and that in this growing digital age, one would be able to learn faster with the aid of the Internet. Daniel said once in an interview:
“Net Literacy started from a realization that Internet illiteracy is not a just a phenomenon applied to senior citizens, it’s prevalent throughout our entire society. We initially identified a couple of segments of the population — elementary school students whose families are on public assistance, section 8 HUD housing, and a couple of others — who also lack either computer access or lack computer training. In addition to that, one of our main focuses recently has been on the aspect of computer safety.”
Through working with numerous young individuals throughout his career, Daniel realized that serving one’s community is a desire that every individual has on the inside – and with proper leading and guidance, that desire can manifest and be put into use for the good of the community.
Daniel saw that through increasing the awareness of being socially responsible, young people manifest the desire of serving their community and become agents of change.
Daniel often writes in his blogs:“Community service is becoming an increasingly integral part of primary and secondary education because educators realize that it develops youth by creating social awareness, teaching life skills, and instilling civic responsibility. And students around the world are increasingly becoming social entrepreneurs as they identify needs in their communities and then leverage their individual skills to make a difference as agents of change.”
Daniel also understands that due to the unlimited potential of the Internet, there is an increasing need for online safety. He stated in an interview: “In high school and in middle school, a lot of us take a health class and learn to stay safe and physically fit, but what they don’t teach us is how to stay safe on the Internet. Now you hear so many horrible stories like on “Dateline” and all the other news programs about kids our age being taken advantage of on the Internet when they are absolutely innocent and don’t know how to avoid the predators and sometimes how to just act courteously on the Internet. Through that desire to gain awareness, we created another organization called Safe Connects.”
Protecting Internet users from things that can affect their mental and moral health has been one of Daniel’s advocacies, and through his work with Net Literacy, he has, in a way, become significant in helping create the awareness of online safety.
Daniel’s passion in promoting digital literacy and digital inclusion stems from the realization of the great potential that the Internet has in affecting the lives of people. Ever since the Internet became popular, there have been some who would use it to spread evil and unwholesome things, but Daniel saw it the other way around.
If one can use something as powerful as the Internet for bad, then how much more would it make a change if it was used for something good and profitable for everyone? Daniel has said this in an interview: “I’ve been working with computers since I was really young, so I thought that this would be a really good idea for me… When the digital generation takes on real-world challenges, it gives students a preview of life’s complexity and helps us develop our critical-thinking skills.”
Daniel’s passion for bringing computer literacy to those who cannot afford it comes from the joy of seeing families being connected. Daniel’s parting words in an interview made with him was a story of one of his first students: “One of our first students is Dr. Grinnan. He had a number of grandchildren that he was unable to stay in contact with very frequently because they lived pretty far away. He was one of the first individuals who signed up and he was very enthusiastic. At first he didn’t know anything about computers except how to program the old mainframes, what he learned in college. He would always stay in front of the computer doing research — looking up medical conditions, e-mailing his grandchildren, even play card games online. Eventually, he got his own computer, so a lot of the residents were happy about that. It’s just really awesome to not only help your community but also to make new friends with people who you might not ordinarily meet.”