Digital Literacy (Digital Fluency)

What Is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy is the ability to use technology to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information safely and responsibly. The concept, which applies to individuals, societies, and economic groups, encompasses skill sets that may also be referred to as computer literacy, ICT literacy, data literacy, or data fluency.

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Digital literacy includes basic technology and security awareness skills, as well as critical thinking skills. It includes the ability someone has to:

Why Digital Literacy Is Important

In the past, there was sometimes a distinction between the terms “digital literacy” and “digital fluency.” Literacy was used to describe very basic computer skills (like knowing how to send an email), while fluency was used to describe a higher level of technical proficiency (like knowing how to publish content on the Internet).

Today, the two terms are used interchangeably to reflect the pervasive nature of technology, advancements in low-code/no-code  programming and cloud computing services, and the need for all citizens to keep pace with technological advancements and their impact on society.

In today’s world, people have to be digitally literate if they want to participate in educational opportunities, find employment and do their jobs. In the United States, the National Skills Coalition reports that 92% of the jobs in the U.S. require digital skills.

Unfortunately, the NSC also found that one-third of today’s workers in the U.S. don’t even have the basic computer skills necessary to enter the job market. This type of finding has broadened the definition of digital divide to include the gap in a population’s digital skills, as well as unequal access to broadband internet.

Digital Literacy Frameworks for Education and Government

Digital literacy frameworks provide governments and educational institutions with a structure and shared language to assess existing digital skill competences, identify skill gaps, and measure the impact of financial investments to improve digital literacy.

These frameworks are used to guide the development of digital literacy curriculum and community improvement initiatives. They typically address the following key components:

Basic computer skills: These are the fundamental skills required to use desktop and mobile applications, online services and devices.

Digital problem solving: These are the skills needed to use technology for work and educational pursuits, social and professional networking, and civic participation. This aspect of digital literacy includes selecting the right technology to carry out a specific task or solve a particular problem.

Digital ethics: These are the skills needed to evaluate the source of digital information and recognize digital disinformation. It includes security and privacy considerations, as well as the ethical use of social media and emerging technologies such as generative AI.

Some of the most well-known frameworks for digital literacy include:

Framework Name Country/Region Purpose/Target Audience
Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) European Union Digital competence for citizens
International Society for Technology in Education Standards United States and some other countries Technology integration in education
Digital Learning Framework Ireland Integration of digital technologies in teaching
Digital Literacy Framework United Kingdom Digital literacy skills for individuals
ICT Capability Framework for Students Australia Effective use of Information and Communications Technology across subjects
Digital Competence Framework Spain Digital competences for students, teachers, and the general public
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Curriculum Framework Hong Kong ICT literacy for students
Digital Competence Framework for Teachers Europe Digital competence for teachers
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Curriculum Framework Singapore ICT skills and competencies for students
National Digital Competence Programme Portugal Digital competence for citizens
Learning Strand 6 Philippines Digital literacy for 21st century citizens.

How Is Digital Literacy Assessed?

Digital literacy can be assessed through various methods depending on the specific context for the assessment and the target audience.

Common approaches used for assessing literacy include:

  • Quizzes;
  • Questionnaires and surveys;
  • Performance-based assessments that require the completion of a series of digital tasks.

Free Learning Resources to Improve Personal Digital Literacy

In today’s digital age, computational and digital literacy are increasingly becoming a prerequisite for career advancement and professional success.  YouTube is one of the most popular resources for free video tutorials on various topics related to digital literacy.

Other popular free learning resources include:

Mozilla Web Literacy: Provides a collection of free resources and activities to improve digital literacy skills, particularly those related to web technologies.

Microsoft Learn: Provides free learning paths and modules for various Microsoft technologies, including Office 365.

Google Workspace Learning Center: Provides free learning resources for various Google productivity products, including Gmail, Docs, and Drive.

Coursera: Provides free access to university a wide variety of courses on technology-related topics, including digital literacy.

Alison: Offers a wide range of free online resources, including courses in digital literacy and information security.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.