Digital Skills
May 28, 2020

Achieving Universal Connectivity Through Digital Skills – new ITU guidebook

By Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) International Telecommunication Union

Ensuring that everyone has the necessary digital skills to improve their lives has been put into focus by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to work, educate and entertain from home, only those with the necessary skills are able to fully benefit from the transformative power of technology during these strange and difficult times.

The newly published Digital Skills Assessment Guidebook acts as a practical and actionable guide for countries around the world, especially developing nations, to undertake national digital skills assessments in order to determine their current digital skills levels as well as their current and future digital skills requirements. Below is my Foreword to the report.

The year 2020 marks the beginning of the “Decade of Action” proclaimed by the United Nations for achieving the goals and targets set out in the Sustainable Development Agenda. In an increasingly digital world, information and communication technologies (ICTs) play a key role as development enablers that can facilitate countries’ capabilities to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, according to ITU statistics, almost half the world population is still not using the Internet. One of the main barriers to greater uptake is a lack of skills required to use digital products, services and content, particularly among populations in poor countries and among marginalized groups.

Taking advantage of the many opportunities offered by ICTs, while at the same time coping with a highly digitalized economy, demands different types of digital skills. The changing technological landscape – including ICT-enabled education, digitized communication and media tools, automation in the home and workplace, increased collaboration through social media, and growing data processing capabilities – requires an ever-evolving skills base.

The results of a digital skills assessment exercise can serve as a concrete and necessary input into the national policy-making process.

Digital skills are fast becoming essential for people to navigate ordinary day-today activities such as using a mobile phone to transfer money to family members via digital financial services, using the Internet for remote education classes and to research, prepare and deliver coursework, and acquiring basic skills for staying safe online. In the workplace, digital skills are required for an ever-growing number of jobs, and even in traditionally manual sectors like agriculture, digital applications are beginning to make inroads, with a corresponding requirement for some level of digital literacy.

Developing a digitally skilled population calls for the involvement of different institutions: universities need to undertake research and determine requirements; government institutions need to develop appropriate policies; training institutions need to deliver relevant digital skills training; and the private sector and civil society organizations need to support digital adoption and use.

As necessary digital skills continue to grow in number and complexity, countries are in need of well-structured approaches to identify current digital skills levels and manage future requirements.

To assist Member States in this process, ITU’s Digital Skills Assessment Guidebook has been designed to serve as a comprehensive, practical step-by-step tool for national digital skills assessments. The guidebook can be used to determine the existing supply of a digitally skilled cohort at a national level, to assess skills demand from industry and other sectors, to identify skills gaps, and to develop policies to address future digital skills requirements. It is designed for use by policy-makers and other stakeholders, such as partners in the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and academia.

This guidebook draws on, and complements, the ITU Digital Skills Toolkit published in 2018. Whereas the toolkit was designed to help policy-makers develop national digital skills strategies and roadmaps, this guidebook focuses on helping them identify national skills gaps and requirements, which can then be addressed through targeted digital skills development policies and strategies. In other words, the results of a digital skills assessment exercise can serve as a concrete and necessary input into the national policy-making process.

ITU’s Digital Skills Assessment Guidebook has been designed to serve as a comprehensive, practical step-by-step tool for national digital skills assessments.

This guidebook also serves as a contribution to the ITU-ILO Digital Skills Campaign, which is part of the ILO Decent Jobs for Youth initiative launched in 2016. The campaign aims to boost youth employment through digital skills by incentivizing and encouraging partners to commit to deliver digital skills training to young people, particularly in the developing world. So far, pledges to train more than 15 million people have been made through the campaign. This guidebook is one of ITU’s contributions to the knowledge products that support the campaign, assisting stakeholders in the design and delivery of effective training policies and programmes to ensure that young people are equipped with the right skills to take their place in the digital economy.

I trust the ITU membership will welcome this guidebook as an indispensable tool, which will facilitate their work and encourage them to undertake the important task of assessing their national digital skills readiness for improved policy-making.

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Achieving Universal Connectivity Through Digital Skills - new ITU guidebook

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