Digital Skills
October 17, 2019

What does ‘digital skills for all’ mean?

by Riina Vuorikari and Yves Punie

Opening a web browser, setting up an email account, using word processing applications, buying goods or services online are just a few examples of what you might think are core skills in today’s digital society. But what about coding, social media analytics and web development?

As technology advances, the need to ensure that citizens are equipped with the necessary digital skills is of growing importance – or else, they will quickly be left behind.

Setting and agreeing these core digital competences help policy-makers and stakeholders create policy, set targets and map educational needs to ensure that every person can fully participate in society and the economy. This is largely achieved through reference frameworks.

Reference frameworks are a vital tool for helping citizens cope with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

They help stakeholders identify key areas that should be addressed and can also be used to create reliable measurement instruments to help keep a track on progress. But reference frameworks are not prescriptive, so how can – and should – key stakeholders use them?

Example in action: DigComp – The European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens

First published in 2013 by the European Commission, the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens – DigComp for short – aimed to become a tool to improve citizen’s digital competence, assist policy-makers in formulating policies that support digital competence building, and plan education and training initiatives to improve digital competence of specific target groups. DigComp aimed to share these practices with the community of users.

There were 21 competences across five main areas: information and data literacy; communication and collaboration; digital content creation; safety; and problem solving.

These competences were framed in a descriptive rather than prescriptive way, ensuring the framework is flexible and adaptable to national and local contexts.

DigComp use cases

DigComp is used extensively for the development of national digital education strategies, for instance formulating policy and creating instructional material.

Reference frameworks can mobilize stakeholders to learn from each other to address digital skills challenges.

In Germany, for example, a new strategy called ‘Education in the Digital World’ was presented for schools and vocational education. The framework also supported work to align digital competence development targets for students and teachers at all levels and types of school.

In the Flanders region of Belgium, where close to 400,000 people attend adult education centres annually, a decision was taken to shift to a new competence-oriented perspective in 2014. DigComp was adopted as a reference framework to define learning outcomes and training modules. In August 2016, the Flemish government approved the proposal which included nine new ICT programmes based on DigComp.

Frameworks for tackling specific challenges

The European Commission has built on the DigComp framework to create specific reference frameworks to tackle specific challenges related to capacity building for education in the digital era.

A Digital Competence Framework for Consumers (DigCompConsumers) was developed to support and improve consumers’ digital competence to help them “function actively, safely and assertively in the digital marketplace.”

A Digital Competence Framework for Educators (DigComEdu) provides a general reference frame to support the development of educator-specific digital competences in Europe.

A European Framework for Digitally Competent Educational Organizations (DigCompOrg) was published to promote effective learning in the digital age.

These reference frameworks can mobilize stakeholders to learn from each other to address digital skills challenges. They can serve different purposes in the overall process of developing a strategy for digital skills, as well as for implementation and monitoring in a national or regional context – and as such, are a vital tool for helping citizens cope with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

Read the full article in the Digital Skills Insights 2019 publication.

ITU’s Digital Skills Insights puts together scholarly articles with a focus on capacity building and skills development in the digital era. Submit your abstract for Digital Skills Insights 2020 by 30 November 2019.

  • Was this article Helpful ?
  • yes   no
© International Telecommunication Union 1865-2018 All Rights Reserved.
ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

What does ‘digital skills for all’ mean?

Send this to a friend