For many, the Internet is becoming an embedded part of everyday life. Seen as an indispensable commodity for socialisation, communication and business transaction, it is sharpening several aspects of human existence, not leaving out fast developing regions like Africa.
With the ubiquity of digital technologies on the continent, it is common to find more than a few individuals with mobile phones – smart or dull, computer systems, among other gadgets, across urban and rural centres. The reality, however, is that most of the gadgets are often under-utilised, largely due to high level of digital illiteracy, which has a global dimension.
Digital literacy, though not explicitly a clear scope of exploration, is the ability to master relevant skills on digital devices, processes and systems that will positively affect one’s life, career, business and future towards prime productivity, through efficient time and resource management.
It is the route to acquiring essential digital skills, the path to developing digital individuals with dexterity, creating digital jobs and workforce, and ultimately, building a digital economy, which thrives on the advances of digital technologies.
The reality for now is that virtually everything from business to tourism, entertainment to education, governance to communication, is going online, thereby making digital skills a compulsory component for 21st century personal peak performance and sterling organisational delivery in the global playing field.
The general literacy of a people influences their digital literacy and vice versa.
Organisations are constantly seeking individuals with competence in key technological areas, which are envisaged to give operational edge to the individual and the organisation as a whole. For instance, it is almost basic for employers to request that applicants have mastery of Microsoft Suite and Internet navigation skills.
Unfortunately, due to the standard of education in many African countries; basic digital skills are not taught in schools and colleges. This requires individuals and organisations to go out of their way to acquire, upgrade and utilise relevant digital skills for their development and sustenance in the ever-changing workspace.
To start with, here are five core areas of digital skills that should be developed:
Information management: The Internet is a repository of vast information and resources, which requires learned skilfulness to be able to find, manage and store digital information and content real time and safely. This ability helps in identifying sources of information and the credibility of such information and sources, while cyber security protects from virus attacks as well as managing parental control. As effective search engines are meant to be, it is pertinent to know that the quality of results from a search query is largely dependent on the knowledge of the searcher on basic algorithm structure. It is my personal belief that one can find anything and everything online, using the right skills. However, in instances where research information is not found online, the challenge therefore, is for one to create and upload such for social good. Search engine mastery, bookmarking, data storage and cloud computing and analytics, among others, fall under this domain.
Communication: Perhaps, the most beneficial aspects of technological advancement to human development are evident in communication. While this is amazing, it is, however, faced with growing challenges including, identity theft, scam and invasion of privacy, among others. However, with essential digital skills, individuals can manage identities, protect themselves from scam, understand and use privacy laws just as organisations can connect and boost organisational value through the variety of communication tools available online.
Commerce: Buying and selling of goods and services are now assuming a digital dimension, dubbed e-commerce. It is, therefore, essential for technological navigators to arm themselves with relevant transactional skills. These skills cut across virtual purchase and sales of goods and services, virtual negotiation, customer service utilisation, organisation of finances, e-payments and relevant security checks, particularly on payment solutions, registration and digital government services, among others.
Problem-solving: Individuals and organisations receive reward for the value of the problems they solve. This is even critical in the digital era where technical solutions are the order of the age with diverse issues to be resolved. Performing excellently in the digital era comes with increased independence and confidence in solving problems. It, therefore, becomes imperative to acquire skills on using digital tools and finding solutions. Tutorial videos, How-To or Do-It-Yourself materials and Massive Open Online Courses from trusted sources are a good way to acquire some of these skills.
Creation: Engaging with communities both online and offline, requires creativity in content ideation, generation and distribution and so is the need to acquire knowledge on basic digital content creation. This effort includes but is not limited to the creation of basic picture and video content, social media posts and documents. Such creations can be achieved through third-party materials with simple registration and relevant attribution.