IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

AI Literacy Act Awaits Congressional Consideration

The bipartisan bill asks lawmakers to update the Digital Equity Act of 2021 to emphasize the importance of educating current and future workers on the basic principles and applications of artificial intelligence.

As Congress resumed today, one piece of bipartisan legislation awaiting members for 2024 is whether to fund artificial intelligence literacy efforts nationwide at public schools, higher education institutions and community libraries.

House of Representatives Bill 6791, the Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., was introduced to Congress before the holiday break, according to a December news release. The legislation would amend the Digital Equity Act of 2021 — a piece of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that allocated $2.75 billion in state and local grants to make broadband connectivity and digital devices more accessible — to include AI literacy.

The legislation emphasizes the importance of AI literacy for “national competitiveness, workforce preparedness, and the well-being and digital safety of Americans,” according to the news release. It also says funding for learning institutions and libraries would be through a competitive grant process.

The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Bucshon is a senior member. The committee website does not yet list any meeting dates for 2024.

The adoption of AI by organizations more than doubled between 2017 and 2022, according to a McKinsey Global Survey published in December 2022, which underscores the importance of educating people on the basic principles and applications of the emerging technology, as well as its limits.

Language in the bill itself says in 2021, Black students made up 7.5 percent of the population of students enrolled in AI-related college bachelor’s degree programs, and the percentage of women in AI programs is only 25 percent even though women make up 60 percent of total college graduates.

“Efforts in AI literacy can help to bridge stark differences in attainment across demographic groups,” the bill says. “The need for a strong work force of AI workers, as well as an AI-literate population, requires investment in AI literacy education.”

Bucshon said lawmakers have a responsibility to “foster an informed public.”

“America must be ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow, and this legislation is a positive step in ensuring the U.S. can lead and thrive in the digital age,” he said in a public statement.

Blunt Rochester said legislation is needed to help Americans recognize AI’s incredible opportunities while also understanding its unique challenges.

“By ensuring that AI literacy is at the heart of our digital literacy program, we’re ensuring that we can not only mitigate the risk of AI but seize the opportunity it creates to help improve the way we learn and the way we work,” she said in a public statement.

According to the news release, the legislation is supported by at least 30 organizations including teachers’ unions, college associations, universities, technology companies, industry groups and nonprofit agencies involved in education or workforce training.

“The AI Literacy Act is an important example of Congress adapting to labor market shifts. As AI becomes more prevalent, it's essential that workers have the opportunity to upskill and reskill to meet the economic moment and business need,” Caroline Treschitta, policy analyst for the National Skills Coalition, said in a public statement. “Digital skills, including working with AI, remain absolutely essential for jobseekers, which is why funding for workers to access digital skills is crucial for workers and businesses.”