There is a general misconception that digital skills are only for employees or those looking for office jobs. While there is a lot of truth in that claim, there is also a huge digital divide being created if we continue to think only job seekers or those already in employment are in need of digital skills. Everyone should be digitally literate.

These days you can control your heating, lighting, even your washing machine from your phone. We live in a digital world and technological advancements affects everyone. And so everybody needs digital skills in this age and time. Yes, nearly all jobs now require some knowledge of ICT whether blue-collar or white-collar jobs and this will escalate as the future of work unfolds.

However, everyone needs digital skills, from teachers to students, to parents, to employees, to business owners, to farmworkers even down to the janitor and cleaners. Home systems are becoming smarter, cleaning equipment and machinery are becoming autonomous and smarter. Cleaners need to learn to operate these systems. We have become digital citizens and a broad definition of digital citizenship is simply the ability to use technology and the internet.

Entry-level digital skills, meaning basic functional skills are required to make basic use of digital devices and online interactions. These are widely considered a critical component of a new set of literacy skills in the digital era.

Beyond Job Seekers:

Acquiring entry-level digital skills for social inclusion goes beyond job seekers. Every area of life requires digital intelligence. The digital divide crises and social inclusion would be easy to navigate if the aim is for everyone to acquire basic digital skills rather than just a specific group of people.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners need digital skills so they can digitalize their businesses and make good use of eCommerce opportunities and platforms. The era of brick and mortar businesses is fast becoming obsolete. Children growing up and swiping on their parent’s phones won’t do engage much in brick and mortar. And so, every business owner should look into how they can leverage digital to run their businesses. E-commerce is the future!

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Artists need digital skills so that they use the internet to showcase their artwork to the world.

Authors, Writers, content creators like myself need Digital skills so we can reach more people with our message.

Teachers need digital skills so that can better equip, prepare and train the next generation for the digital world.

Students need digital skills so that they can make good use of online learning and other learning software.

Stay at home Mom/Dad, you need digital skills to help your child with homework. Homework is no longer on paper but on the internet.

Housewives need digital skills so that they can shop online especially during a time like the Covid-19 pandemic the world is currently facing.

Farmworkers need digital skills so that they can be able to operate new technologies like drones and other tech machinery in the agricultural sector.

Even taxi drivers need digital skills so that they can understand how to use a GPS to get direction. This may sound strange to some people like you mean some taxi drivers don’t know how to use GPS? Yes for sure! Well, we not talking about Uber taxi drivers here. 

Let me tell you a quick story. I was in Rwanda for a conference, just before the world went on lockdown. Rwanda is my all-time Favorite country in Africa! Well, while in the capital city, Kigali, there was a particular place in the city that I’d planned to visit. And so, I requested a taxi to go to this place but the driver took me to the wrong place, twice. 

We drove around for almost 2 hours and he still couldn’t locate this place. I remember asking him on several occasions to use the GPS and he had no idea how to use that. The 2nd major challenge was that the GPS spoke English while the driver could only communicate well in his local language. I remember feeling so frustrated as my flight was almost due and I just couldn’t take the risk of missing my flight. I painfully ask him to take me to the airport. And that was what happened in relation to taxi drivers and GPS. 

Self Service Systems

Digital skills also include the ability to use self-service checkouts at retail stores and restaurants. I’ve been to some MacDonald’s outlets and food is ordered only via a self-service kiosk. People lacking digital skills will start to intentionally avoid restaurants like this. Closing the digital divide gap requires that everyone should strive to acquire digital skills not only students or job seekers. 

People lacking digital skills may start avoiding not only these types of restaurants but supermarkets and other retail stores with self-service technologies simply because they don’t want to embarrass themselves with these new systems. Learning digital skills will boost your confidence to do things online.

These may sound like futuristic concepts to some people but self-services technologies are not in the future but in the now. It’s only a matter of time before self-service systems infiltrate everywhere you go. Soon you’ll go to a supermarket, pick your groceries, scan them by yourself and pay without the help of a cashier. 

For those of us in South Africa, have you noticed that in almost all retail stores, cashiers don’t touch your bank cards anymore? They only scan your products, you insert your card on their payment machine yourself and that’s exactly how the retail industry is training us for self-service. Even the cashiers don’t realize that they are training us for self-service.

Self-service goes beyond the retail industry. It extends to logistics and the hospitality industry as well. The next time you are travelling, you may not meet real people at the check-in desk when you get to the airport. You may have to check in your luggage online or at any of the self-service kiosks at the airport. When travelling on a smart train like the Gautrain In Johannesburg, South Africa, you may have to get your ticket at the self-service counter instead of actually paying to a cashier. When you get to your hotel room you may have to check in without the help of anyone at the hotel reception. 

I could go on and on. This is the new normal. So make sure you learn as many digital skills as you can.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

To thrive in the connected economy and digital 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 social skills.

Another point is that we are digital citizens and all digital citizens must learn to protect themselves online and avoid unsafe practices. Online security is a huge topic on its own. I will probably write an article on this topic as well.

So, whatever you do and whoever you are, you need basic digital skills, else you might start avoiding certain retail outlets. Major technology breakthroughs are expected in the next ten years or so and will impact all forms of work and the structure of labour markets as well as other aspects of life. One such breakthrough we are starting to see is the Metaverse. The Metaverse is the next phase of the internet. A digital reality environment represented by digital representations of people, places, and things.

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