Are you aware that 95% of the world's population lives in an area protected by at least one 2 G mobile network? The rapid growth of Internet access and communication paved the way for the creation of a global digital economy. However, there are major inequalities due to the lack of digital skills in both developed and developing countries. From 26 to 30 March 2018, Mobile Learning Week - UNESCO’s yearly flagship ICT in education event examined the types of skills needed in today’s connected economy and society, with an emphasis on digital skills and competencies. It also focused on the challenges and strategies to offer digital skills development opportunities for all and came up with a list of the basic digital skills needed. But what are digital skills?
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Digital skills are defined as a range of capacities for accessing and managing information using digital devices, communication applications, and networks. Cornell University defines digital literacy as ‘the ability to find, evaluate, utilise, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet’. They are any skills related to being digitally literate and employers are looking for them today and in the near coming future. The digital age is expanding into all areas of our lives, and it is not just those who work in IT that will need to be alert of this change. The House of Lords has stated that digital skills should be taught as a third core subject, and treated with the same importance as numeracy and literacy.
What digital skills do I need for the modern workplace? By this definition, digital skills are any skills related to being digitally literate. Anything from the ability to find out your high-score on Minesweeper to coding a website counts as a digital skill. There are different tiers of digital skills. At the bottom, we have what the UK Department for Education (DfE) calls “digital foundation skills”. These are the basic digital skills that will be second nature to Millennials and Generation Z digital natives, though which may have to be learned by older generations. A framework written up by the DfE alongside Accenture and other organisations outlines these basic digital skills under six areas. These are then subdivided into skills for life and additional skills for work. These skills are:
- Digital foundation skills – the fundamentals of being able to use digital technologies, such as using a browser, connecting to the internet, and keeping passwords secure.
- Communicating – sending emails securely, using attachments, and participating on social media.
- Handling information and content – using search engines, be aware that not all online content is reliable, accessing content across devices.
- Transacting – setting up accounts to use or purchase goods/services online, using different secure payment methods, filling in online forms.
- Problem-solving – finding solutions to problems using FAQs/tutorials/chat, presenting solutions through software, and improving productivity.
- Being safe and legal online – understanding best practice in data storage/sharing, updating and keeping passwords secure, and taking precautions against viruses.
These are defined as the basic digital skills needed in a day-to-day professional context. They will be enough for many working in traditional workplaces which have adopted digital systems to improve efficiency, security, and connectivity. However, for those looking to work in the growing digital sector, it will need to possess more advanced skills in specific areas of digital business. Higher-level capabilities are at the advanced spectrum of digital skills that allow users to make use of digital technology in inspiring and disruptive ways, such as ICT careers. Significant technology transformations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analysis, increasing skills requirements in turn, and building capacity and improve skills for the 21st-century digital economy.
Digital skills must also work in tandem with other abilities to succeed in the connected economy and community, such as good literacy and numeracy skills, analytical and creative thinking, complex problem solving, collaborative capacity, and socio-emotional skills. It derives its origins from the stratified and nuanced fusion of many main definitions of skills, namely IT literacy, ICT literacy, digital literacy, ICT skills, computer literacy, ICT skills, e-skills, technical literacy, media literacy, knowledge literacy, e-literacy, generic skills, competencies of the 21st century, multi-literacy, and modern literature. They include both technical skills related to understanding and using digital technologies, software and applications, and information processing skills which are the cognitive foundations of digital skills.
Digital skills training
So how do I learn digital skills? The European Commission notes that while businesses recognise the negative impact of a lack of digital skills, they were not successful in rectifying this. No less than 88% of the workplaces did not participate in any training for workers on digital skills. The most common impediment is the high cost of training. Organisations remain responsible for upskilling their staff. Nonetheless, some workers may choose to take digital skills training into their own hands to enhance processes and outcomes, as well as their employability. Grounding up in digital skills will also help make the case for its usefulness to employers – potentially attracting investment and further training.
The suite of Accenture digital skills courses will prove a valuable introduction for those workers wondering how to develop digital skills, as well as companies interested in upgrading their workforce. Such courses are available online, eliminating costs for any group as a barrier to entry. Several different opportunities are available for those who want to and are willing to embark on more in-depth studies, including advanced qualification courses, diplomas, and master's degrees. Throughout colleges and universities, online services exist alongside local access.
For businesses in which digital skills are present, on-the-job training is one of the main ways in which digital skills are imparted, with junior workers learning and their supervisors enhancing their digital skills. In particular, the sharing of digital skills amongst employees will be a key learning platform for companies going through digital transformations. However, the entry barrier would be higher where businesses have completed their digital transformation, or in other situations, start-ups that have existed only in digital form. For these organizations, prospective workers are expected to possess these skills at all but the most junior levels, before they are even considered for roles.
Digital skills you can acquire include:
- PPC marketing
- Email marketing
- Mobile design principles
- Mobile optimisation
- Omni-channel marketing
- Improving customer experience with digital technologies
- Social media marketing
- Performance measurement
- Web analytics
- Audience segmentation
- Social listening
- Learning how AI can change your business
There are various videos, courses, and how-to guides available online for those looking to improve their basic digital skills. For those who choose to learn in-person, local group service can also be another way. Friends and family play an important role for those unwilling to make the first few moves, as well as classes in the local community. Various charities and other organizations, too, give basic digital skills training to older users.
Digital skill courses
The following are some of the digital skill courses for those looking to work in the digital sector itself, they would need to have more specialised skills relevant to different areas of a digital enterprise. Which include, but are not limited to:
- Digital marketing - The internet changed the marketing game entirely, introducing in the pre-digital era a degree of precision and size unknown. To traverse this new terrain, advanced digital skills are required, with specialist practitioners frequently concentrating on one particular discipline. Those include issues such as pay-per-click ads, search engine optimisation, email marketing, as well as the strategy to bring them together.
- Social media - Digital social media skills are key to the digital marketing mix, but they are worth taking out because social media has come to play such an important role in our daily and professional lives. Social media management tools, performance assessment, new channel analysis, brand presence/voice, influencer marketing and paid versus organic all play a part in communicating with prospective and current users.
- User experience - Just as the actual shopping experience in brick-and-mortar shops plays an important role in driving sales, the experience of using a website or mobile app is vital to getting consumers to do what the website or app owner wants them to do. This is much more important, in reality, because users can only use a website in predetermined ways. Now we've got the digital skills field known as a user interface or UX. This art is to make sure smartphones, websites and other digital platforms are intuitive and fun to use.
- Web analytics - One part of what separates the modern era from before is precision. The conduct patterns of those using digital channels are understandable. It also means for organizations being able to chart the achievements and shortcomings of their digital projects quantifiably. Web analytics is the digital skillset involved in gathering and making sense of this data. Issues including benchmarking, segmentation of markets, and analysis all come under the remit of Web analytics.
- Artificial intelligence - Compared with the aforementioned technical abilities, artificial intelligence may still have something of a science fiction ring to it. However, artificial intelligence plays a growing role in modern enterprises. AI is about teaching machines to do work, predict, and make decisions based on the thorough computation of past cases, rather than the humanoid robots of cinematic mythology.
Think about automating activities to increase productivity, not limited by any means only to manual work, with business process automation playing an increasing role in modern workplaces (not even medicine or law is exempt). Machine learning from big data is also expected to be crucial to making better strategic decisions or to predict how people will behave in a given context. There are just a handful of technical digital skills. Other examples include data visualization, web and app creation, CRM software, search engine marketing (SEM) and video production.
Digital skills gap
While digital skills are important, there is a skills gap. According to the Education Department in the UK, the challenges are severe, with 10% of working adults not having enough technical skills. Then we can confidently conclude that technical skills would be desperately lacking at a higher level. However, according to Deloitte, only 12% of executives believed UK students had satisfactory digital skills in 2018 down from 20% in 2017. Three quarters reported experiencing digital recruitment challenges. The disparity in digital skills has consequences not only for job seekers but also for industry itself. The European Commission found that as a result of a lack of digital expertise, 38 per cent of the workplaces reported adverse outcomes. For highly qualified occupations this difference for technical expertise is more pronounced.
A 2018 EY study echoes this, according to their results, nearly half of European companies lacked competence in the areas of AI, cybersecurity, and robotics. There are incentives for those sufficiently well-equipped and able to learn these digital skills, with 89 per cent of companies planning to invest in training to rectify these deficiencies in digital skills. In the US, the same year's Deloitte study found that Industry 4.0 spurred rapid growth in work openings, thus highlighting the size of the disparity in digital skills. The professional services company estimated that from 2018 to 2028 some 2.4 million jobs will be left unfulfilled, with a possible economic effect of $2.5 trillion.
Although the recruiting will slow down the coronavirus pandemic, these highly important positions are likely to be among the first to rebound as companies adapt to new ways of doing things. Anyone with digital expertise is expected to succeed well.
Digital skills with Google
Google also offers some digital skills training which comes with certifications for the new digital world. With versatile and customised training courses designed to build trust and help you succeed, develop your career or company at your own pace:
- Discover tools to make your business succeed
- Improve your interview skills
- Prepare for the career you want
This can be done in just three simple steps:
There are plenty of resources and content with which you can learn online with Google and upskill yourself. These are offered for the different types of users and it covers the following:
- Small businesses
- Job seekers and students
- Veterans and military families
Click on any link above to start your journey in digital skills upskilling with Google.
Governments need to consider how employment and the skill sets needed by these workers are evolving to realise opportunities created by digitisation. Digital skills have changed from 'optional' to 'essential' and need to be complemented by transversal 'soft skills' such as the ability to effectively interact with both online and offline media. Digital skills are also in great demand in developed countries and significantly enhance opportunities for decent jobs. They are correlated with higher earning potential and analysts have projected an increasing number of positions for people with advanced digital skills. Not only are new positions open, but some of them are also, in fact, going unfilled, making the provision of specialised digital skills part of a jobless solution.
Kudzai Derera is a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm.
Phone: +263 242 481946-48/481950
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