Reinforcing what our previous report Perception and Reality: Measuring Digital Skills in Europefound other reports are also showing that low digital skills are creating a barrier for people who could stand to benefit from using ICT. According to the research, 23% of adults in the UK don’t have basic digital skills. The findings are yet another confirmation that people are lacking the essential skills that they ever increasingly need for everything from work to their private lives.
The research was commissioned by Go ON UK and Lloyds Banking Group, and conducted by polling organisation, Ipsos Mori. 4,000 people in the UK were asked about five online skills, which included tasks such as searching for information, sending messages, shopping online, using web forms, and solving simple IT problems. The study found that, in many parts of the UK, people are at risk of digital exclusion due to low levels of ICT skills. Remote parts of Wales and Scotland, along with the English counties of North Lincolnshire, Shropshire and Northumberland, emerged as the worst performing for digital skills. London, and the South East of England showed high levels of digital inclusion, thanks to relatively high levels of knowledge and good infrastructure.
We have followed this topic for a long time, and it is clear from every study conducted on the issue, that people just do not have good enough digital skills to be able to get the most out of what computers and the internet can offer. It is hard to think of a job these days that doesn’t require some form of computer use, and access to everything from tax payment to social security applications and job searches now demands a basic level of knowledge of computer use. Since it is hard to imagine the role of computers in daily life reducing any time soon, it is safe to say the importance and necessity of digital skills will only rise. While this latest study has found that people are lacking skills, and highlighted the geographical imbalance of digital skills in the UK, a recent survey by BCS, the chartered institute for IT in Britain, found that almost half of employers questioned, did not think that their workforces had the skills to face the digital challenges of the future. It is clear then, that we need to do a lot more to tackle poor digital skills, not just in the UK, but around the world.
Most recently in Switzerland, a study found that participants scored on average only 46% in a test of a range of basic digital skills. When each area of skill, for example, word processing, was compared to participants’ assessments, it became clear that people didn’t even know that they were lacking vital ICT skills. A study in Mexico revealed similar results, while research in Austria last year showed that although 60% of participants rated their abilities as “good” or “very good”, after testing, 61% were found to have “bad” or “very bad” levels of skills.
In short: people don’t have the skills they need to get the most out of digital technology and take advantage of the enormous benefits that it can bring. Programmes like ECDL, which allow people to build and certify essential skills with an internationally recognised qualification, can help, but we clearly need more focus on making sure that people are not left behind.
Blog based on the original of ECDL Foundation