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.
Digital literacy includes basic technology and security awareness skills, as well as critical thinking skills. It includes the ability someone has to:
- Understand and manage their own digital identity and digital footprint;
- Locate and use information from a variety of sources;
- Assess the credibility of online information;
- Create and share digital content, such as documents, presentations, and videos;
- Use communication and collaboration software effectively;
- Gather, read, interpret and discuss quantitative data as a source of information;
- Operate digital devices safely and securely;
- Understand the fundamental concepts, technology, and functionalities of blockchain and cryptocurrencies;
- Understand the ethical implications of social networking use and misuse;
- Use technology responsibly to participate in online digital communities and engage in civic discourse;
- Understand the ethical implications of generative AI use and misuse;
- Navigate the complexities of online applications for telehealth and online government services;
- Navigate the complexities of decentralized financial (DeFi) insurance services and lending platforms.
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.|