Bridging the digital literacy divideWednesday, June 16, 2021
We are in a digital literacy pandemic, one that was percolating beneath our busy schedules and distracted agendas until the actual pandemic hit. Then it became everyone's reality and, for many parents, educators and school administrators, a nightmare. Yet, as we have witnessed over the past year, there is an opportunity within this seemingly desperate situation.
To fix it, we had to face it. Not many people knew how poorly digitised our public school systems were or how far-reaching the literacy gap went beyond our classrooms. In years gone by, we may have heard discussions about ensuring broadband access or resource centres to support children doing homework who may not have access to the Internet at home. We discovered that this didn't even scratch the digital literacy problem's surface because consideration was not given to our teachers and other public servants. Also overlooked were young people who are no longer a part of the school system and senior citizens.
While it should be applauded that there has been an influx of support from local entities and the diaspora via grant funding and device drives for schools, there is still much more to be done. The digital literacy divide is more significant than a single device can span, and so it should not be taken for granted that this is the fix for the challenges.
Strategically and measurably, we must address the challenges we face as a country with a holistic approach spanning upskilling and resource accessibility from the early years to beyond retirement. It would mean assessing the full scale of digital literacy needs and designing a multifaceted approach to closing the gap. A vital component of this is understanding where we are, and our aspirations from a digitally-enabled society perspective. Consideration should be given to multiple competencies, including but not limited to device and software use, ability to create and consume digital content, security and privacy while online, among other crucial factors.
Equally important is the competency gap that exists at the corporate level. Often overlooked is the lack of technical training and skills for professionals in the workplace because they may use a desktop or laptop computer daily. IT professionals are typically the default when it comes to problem-solving where technology is involved or required. Still, this thinking will also need to shift with executives and HR professionals who support the enablement of their staff members.
There is much more to say on this topic. Still, in closing, it is relevant to note that vocational training for IT professionals, business persons and the general public is made available through organisations such as HEART and the Jamaica Digital and Technology Alliance (JDTA). There are also numerous opportunities for customised programmes to serve SMEs, corporations and government agencies. There is no need for anyone to be left behind.
Guest editorial by the Jamaica Digital and Technology Alliance (JDTA). Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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