Are We Digitally Ready for the Future?

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By Kaʻala Souza

One can only wonder what the people of Hawaiʻi thought in 1820 when the crew of the Thaddeus offloaded the first printing press in Hawaiʻi. Could anyone anticipate the changes this technology would bring to the islands? We don’t know what people thought that day, but we know that within a decade, literacy in Hawaiʻi grew from zero to over 90% – one of the highest rates of any nation in the world.

Early in his reign Kamehameha III said, “He aupuni palapala koʻu – Mine shall be a kingdom of literacy.” The monarchy’s strong commitment to education provided the nation with opportunity. But it was the people and their deep desire to learn that made this achievement possible.

On a visit to Hawaiʻi Island Kaʻahumanu saw how eager the people were for the “palapala” and remarked, “Many are the people, few are the books.” She sent immediately for more books to be printed and delivered to the island.

Today we need this same thirst for learning in a world forever disrupted by COVID-19. The pandemic accelerated and catalyzed a technology evolution into a digital revolution. Our keiki learn over the internet. Our kūpuna see their doctors online. We celebrate births, mourn lost loved ones, and witness marriages virtually.

Even before the virus, technology was transforming our world; the ways we communicate, shop, travel, bank, play – all of it has been impacted by technology. Many of us have jobs requiring skills that we could not have imagined a decade ago. And our children are in school preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist.

We can’t know what the future holds. However, we can anticipate that technology will continue to change.

The question is, are we ready for these changes? Can we adapt and pivot to utilize the technology available to us? Can we learn what we need to thrive here in Hawaiʻi and keep our families together on the ʻāina?

American Philosopher Eric Hoffer said, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

For people with the skills and the tools, the future is wide open. However, for those with limited or no access to technology – or the skills to use it – the door is locked.

As Hawaiians, we need to stay connected and take pride in our past while reaching to the future. Let’s look for opportunities and leverage them. Let’s listen to the voices of our ancestors while finding places to grow.

Kamehameha III’s vision of a literate nation echoes still in our islands today. We must work to make this vision a reality, and for every one of us to be digitally ready. Mākaukau?


Kaʻala Souza is part of the team at the state’s Workforce Development Council focusing on upskilling Hawaiʻi’s workforce to be ready for anything the future brings. He is also a public speaker, corporate trainer, and author of the book, “Pono: A Hawaiian-Style Approach to Balance and Well-Being.”

Free Digital Literacy Courses

From April 30 – June 30, 2021, the state’s Workforce Development Council (WDC), in partnership with other state agencies, will offer free “Introduction to Computers and the Internet” classes at public libraries and community college campuses throughout the state as part of its Workforce Resiliency Initiative, in an effort to lead Hawaiʻi’s economy toward recovery. Classes are open to all Hawaiʻi residents 18+.

The individualized, in-person three-hour course is for those with little to no computer experience to acquire the skills necessary to continue learning at home or at work via provided online learning resources.

Classes will cover the following topics:

  • Creating an email account
  • Identifying computer hardware and software
  • Using the mouse and keyboard
  • Browsing and searching the internet safely

Following the class, participants will be eligible for continued learning online with Northstar Digital Literacy where they can access assessments and curriculum on multiple platforms.

To register and for more information, visit www.digitalreadyhawaii.org or contact Kaʻala Souza at 808-228-7958/kaala@kaala.com.