The importance of Digital Literacy
Digital literacy is the ability to use and understand how new technologies and new media (smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, PCs) work, giving us the chance to actively live in our society nowadays.
When it comes to literacy, we refer to the process of acquiring the basic skills to read and write. This process is deeply rooted in our society and in our school system, but when it comes to digital literacy things change and the certainty waver. Despite the European Parliament emphasized in a report of 25 March 2010 the importance of digital literacy and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), today computer and digital illiteracy are affecting the ability to access and move within the Information Society and be competent digital citizens.
According to Digital Agenda in Italy we can divide the digital population into 4 types, (data given by ISTAT):
- 37% of the population (between 6 and 75 years old) has never used the Internet;
- 13% did not use it in the last 3 months;
- 24% used it but did not know how to actively use the services it offers (eg Internet banking);
- 26% reach at least the minimum level of skills in our increasingly digitized society.
Also in the US, Vouchercloud site has outlined the level of digital illiteracy in the US.
The results of the research are far not comforting:
- 11% of respondents argue that HTML is a sexually transmitted virus;
- For 27% the Gigabyte is a South American insect;
- Fortunately, 61% think it is essential to have computer skills.
Basic digital skills: what are they?
According to the European Union, digital skills consist in being able to use the TSIs (Information Society Technologies) to work and leisure, and the basic ICT skills (Information and Communication Technologies), such as the use of computers to find, evaluate, store, produce, present and exchange information as well as communicate and participate in collaborative networks over the Internet.
Digital skills also require a solid awareness and knowledge of the role and the opportunities of the ISTs in both private and social life and work. This includes major IT applications such as text, spreadsheets, databases, storage and management of information, etc.
People should also be aware of how the TSIs can be an opportunity to support creativity and innovation, but also be aware of potential internet risks related to the validity and reliability of available information, and the legal and ethical principles that arise in the interactive use of the TSIs. In 2010, the European Union created a ranking of digital skills to own. Some of these are:
- Ability to explore an environment;
- Ability to adopt multiple views and improvise;
- Ability to synthesize multimedia content;
- Ability to compare different points of view;
- Ability to evaluate sources of information;
- Ability to network and disseminate information.
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Digital literacy and young people
Young people (between the ages of 16 and 24), also called digital natives, since they have grown up with technology the web is an integral part of their lives. They are the most prominent players in the use of technology and they prove to be the more competent users and, therefore, those who are able to take advantage of the benefits offered by the network.
However, there are also significant differences among young people. Gui and Argentin (2011) report the results of a digital competence test on a causal sample of high school students showing how generally boys are competent from an operational point of view but show a deficit on critical awareness of the use of the Net.
Digital natives think in terms of community, or within the “network community” characterized not only by specific interests, but also by different expressive and linguistic codes. It is evident, therefore, that familiarity with the new media has changed the way of learning, knowing and communicating.
Digital literacy and seniority
Older people are the most at risk of exclusion from digital society. According to an ISTAT research in 2012, 27% of older people between the ages of 60 and 64 and 12% of those aged between 65 and 74, use computers as beginners, the lowest in Europe and even the United States.
For these reasons there is a digital literacy promotion campaign by many public and private institutions. Beside e-learning (electronic-learning), among the methods considered to be most suitable for the elderly to learn digital literacy is the intergenerational learning model, which provides a way of linking schools, digital natives and elderly centers that interact in national and international levels.
The society therefore can not overlook the digital education of every individual because digital technologies are now present in every aspect of our life, both at the workplace, as well as in the administrative, economic and social domain. Digital education is a great potential to counteract inequalities in the world. Moreover, thanks to the sharing of knowledge, it can bring many benefits to the cultural, social and economic growth of the country.