However, during the past two years, COVID-19 highlighted and accelerated two trends which, together, are bringing to light a third element of the digital divide: those who lack sufficient digital skills to fully participate in today’s digital society.
- First, COVID accelerated the previously existing trends toward remote work, online learning/digital content, telehealth, online banking, etc; and
- COVID magnified the recognition of the digital skills gap—in schools, workplaces and especially under-served populations.
As a result, it is becoming more widely accepted that efforts to close the digital divide must include not only improving access to devices and broadband access, but also ensuring that target populations gain the digital skills to effectively participate in the digital world.
A study published by the National Skills Coalition indicated that 1 in 3 workers (aged 16-64) lack foundational digital skills. And the gap is projected to only increase: World Economic Forum estimated that, over a five year period, 85 million jobs worldwide would be eliminated due to the rise of artificial intelligence and automation. These jobs tend to be low-skill jobs such as data entry specialists, bookkeepers, secretaries and administrative assistants, and stock-keeping clerks. Meanwhile, the same report predicts that over the same period, 97 million new jobs will be created, in fields such as data analysis, machine learning, digital marketing and process automation.
Additionally, Salesforce recently published a Digital Skills Index, based on survey results of 23,000+ workers across 19 countries. Some key findings:
- A majority of workers say they lack the digital skills to prepare them for the future
- Workers scored an average of 33 points out of 100 on the Digital Skills Readiness Index
- Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents say they aren’t equipped with the resources needed to learn the digital skills they need to succeed in the current and future workplace
- Only 31% of Gen Z respondents (the first truly digital native generation) feel “very equipped” for a digital-first job right now. A low percentage of Gen Z workers believe they have “advanced” digital skills in areas like coding (20%), data encryption and cybersecurity (18%) and AI (7%)
- For Baby Boomers, only 17% believe they are “very equipped” for digital-first employment.
A recent RAND report highlights that the digital skills gap comes with high economic cost: 14 G20 countries could miss out on an estimated $11.5 trillion cumulative GPD growth if the digital skills gap isn’t addressed.
The good news is that corporations, foundations and governments (federal, state and local) are recognizing the imperative for ensuring our population has the necessary resources—and skills—to participate in the increasingly digital world. We are seeing many recent examples of this commitment to addressing the digital skills gap, not the least of which is $2.8 billion in federal funds to the Digital Equity Act. We at Learning.com are fortunate to be able to work with many partners in this area.
For 20 years, Learning.com has worked with school districts and states around the nation to provide digital skills education to K-12 students. Our digital curriculum spans computer fundamentals and keyboarding, which are essential in nearly every facet of school and work now, to more advanced skills like data analysis and coding, that can lead directly into digital-first careers. We know that ensuring that students from all kinds of districts – rural and urban, large and small – get an early start on developing these essential skills, means they will gain access to full participation in the digital economy. And we’re looking forward to working together with others to close the current digital divide once and for all.
Keith Oelrich joined Learning.com as CEO in 2012. A pioneer in the K-12 online education market since 2000, Keith has served as CEO of several companies which have collectively provided K-12 online education programs to thousands of districts, tens of thousands of schools and millions of students and their families.
Implementing a Successful Digital Literacy Plan
Digital literacy encompasses a range of skills that transform the ways in which students learn, collaborate and digest information. These digital...
Helping Teachers With Compassion Fatigue
People typically become teachers because they love children and have a passion for educating and helping others. The problem is sometimes teachers...
Examples of Digital Literacy in Education
Digital literacy is having the skills to effectively use technology and to do so safely and responsibly. “Digital” refers to technology, ranging...
Arlington ISD Renews Focus on Digital Skills for Future-Ready Students
Situated between Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, Arlington Independent School District serves 56,000 K-12 students, and has offered Learning.com's...
The Importance of Digital Citizenship in Education
In 2019, 95% percent of 3- to 18-year-olds were reported to have home internet access, according to the American Community Survey (ACS). In a...
Join Us in Thanking Teachers This Week
This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, an important time to recognize the invaluable contributions of teachers in our lives. From early...
Tips for Teachers and Parents to Prepare Students to be Safe Online This Summer
Being a good citizen in the digital world is just as important as being one in the physical world. Digital citizenship means being respectful and...
The Changing Role from Librarian to Digital Media Specialists
What comes to mind when you think of a school librarian? Books? Circle time? Quietly selecting literature to read at a table? That may be what we...
Algorithmic Thinking: A Critical Skill for Today’s Students
For many people, “algorithmic thinking” conjures visions of a Good Will Hunting whiteboard with extensive equations and symbols long forgotten in...