Digital skills are any skills related to being digitally literate. They are essential for everyone to be included in our modern world. Digital skills enable people to create and share content, communicate and engage, and puzzle out problems for effective and creative self-fulfilment in life, learning, work, and social endeavours at large.
The rapid growth of Internet access and connectivity has paved the way for the development of a digital economy across the world. However, there are major inequalities due to lack of digital skills in both developed and developing countries. The deficits that exist in children and young people’s skills and competencies in these countries emphasise the need for schools to address this issue through job-relevant training and employment opportunities.
The skills gap is a complex challenge and addressing it will take the involvement of stakeholders across industry, government and the education sector. The skills gap will not be solved if business leaders revert to thinking this is just a hiring game. Instead, organisations need to develop talent from new sources, and grow the employees they already have. Investing in people, and building sustainable, long-term talent pipelines, means every organisation will emerge stronger from the global pandemic, and thrive in the technological world that follows.
At the advanced spectrum of digital skills are the higher-level abilities that allow users to make use of digital technologies in empowering and transformative ways such as professions in ICT. Developing both soft skills and hard skills (including education on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital thinking and more) to prepare them for jobs of the future.
Youth should be empowered with skills relevant to drive the digital era and marketplace. To thrive in the connected economy and society, digital skills must also function together with other abilities such as strong literacy and numeracy skills, critical and innovative thinking, complex problem solving, an ability to collaborate, and socio-emotional skills.
The future of work is in the online world, a world full of possibilities where you can get everything you set out for. Digital competency frameworks allow governments and employers to plan initiatives that can bridge the information gap between job seekers and employers. In the working world digital skills are often used to create something new, such as PowerPoint presentations, reports, flyers and more.
Today there are numerous digital skills training online; Lego and Code.org target K-12 students and emphasize coding, while Google’s framework includes digital entrepreneurship skills, such as online marketing and e-commerce. At the more advanced end of the spectrum, SFIA, EU e-Competency, and various industry and vendor certifications (Apple, Linux+, Microsoft, Oracle) are considered likely by IT professionals to be needed in digitally intensive jobs. As well as the ITU Digital Toolkit, the DigComp framework 2.1 is being adopted.
International Finance Corporation (IFC) noted that sub-Saharan Africa has a $130 billion investment opportunity in digital skilling through 2030. In Ghana alone, over 9 million jobs will require digital skills by 2030, translating to about 20 million training opportunities. The opportunity in Ghana alone represents nearly $4 billion in revenue potential through 2030.
With rising youth unemployment, government should help empower African youth to bridge the digital literacy gap; form a new talent pool created for 21st century jobs; enable them to plan professional careers; and find jobs or even create their own start-ups.
As the pace of digital transformation in the Africa speeds up, workers and entrepreneurs increasingly need digital skills to succeed in an evolving marketplace. A common starting point for most policy makers is to identify frameworks that can be used to measure these skills.
Without policy interventions, ongoing technological developments threaten to exacerbate the inequalities between those with and without digital skills. Integrated and comprehensive responses are urgently needed. Government and state actors need to play a pivotal role in setting up the fundamental principles for inclusive and equitable digital skills development, providing programmes and capacity development initiatives for disadvantaged groups, and re-skilling adults at risk for job displacement.
African governments should prioritise that everyone has relevant digital skills helps promote inclusive and equitable education and lifelong learning for all.