In 2018 we participated with the International Telecommunications Union in developing a Digital Skills Toolkit that could be used to assist governments and organisations in outlining a strategy to cover the adoption of digital skills.
We then helped facilitate workshops to make practical use of the toolkit across a region or industry sector to demonstrate how the toolkit could be rolled out into actionable steps to achieve specific outcomes.
Toolkit facilitation outcomes
There are a relatively small number of key skills/solutions that were identified but can make a significant impact on the general citizen and improve their quality of life and ensure they are able to function competently in the modern digital age.
These skills are common globally and form a basis for benchmarking and producing an audit of the region or organisation.
Infrastructure plays a key role in the speed in which these skill sets can be delivered and adopted.
As the number of government services moves towards a digital transformation it is imperative that these basic skills are available for the general population to avoid further isolation of a large segment of the population.
Intermediate skills that are targeted at the working population are obviously driven predominantly at the organisational level and so vary immensely across employers and the level of adoption of technology for each respective sector.
A very different set of challenges may arise when presenting this toolkit to SMEs of industries that are less exposed to technology. However regardless of industry sector there are many common challenges that occur across all departments eg. sales, customer service, finance, human resources etc.
The skills/solutions identified for the Intermediate group highlighted many deeply technical skills specific to a particular industry but also reinforced the need for general digital skills to set a benchmark platform for all employees to communicate and interact efficiently.
Solutions also included the need to set clear policies and create an awareness strategy to help make learning a lifelong initiative and professional development a key plank in the organisational priorities.
Soft skills were also extremely important to include as part of the digital skills topic areas and the ability for mentorship within the organisation was also an area that requires incentives and availability of central repositories of information to make access easier and promote both formal and informal approaches to learning.
The global market for advanced digital skills education is extremely diverse and many countries rely almost exclusively on foreign professionals to address these gaps.
This reliance often involves heavy costs and technology is seen as a possible way to reduce some of these costs through blended training delivery programs that can reduce the amount of face to face time required with external professionals.
There were also a large number of International corporates that were identified that can offer a number of free or very low cost approaches to training including access to online training, libraries of resources and fully funded professional development courses in specific cutting edge technologies.
An up skilling of senior management or senior ministers/policy creators is also required so that digital transformation strategies can be fully understood and driven by the ultimate decision makers.
In addition to the skills/solutions identified for the Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced groups there were also a number of Overall general solutions that form the basis of any comprehensive digital skills strategy examples included digital skills task force creation, school curriculum modifications, teacher training, digital libraries and general benchmarking and awareness campaigns.
A dash report which is a broad summary of some of the key elements of the toolkit tool provides a snapshot of the results that can be used and modified to present to senior decision makers to assist in setting foundations for policy and describing key gaps and requirements.
Often the broad goals and priorities will be already established for a national level strategy by the relevant ministry and can be adopted for the purpose of the toolkit.
Some additional challenges identified
Although attempts are being made to introduce digital skills into school curriculums they are often inconsistent and hampered by a lack of resources including internet access, teacher expertise and quality standards.
For many regions there are only a small number of digital skills programs on offer mainly through some of the larger Universities and technical colleges but there are few smaller private providers that are addressing these skills shortages.
Statistics on completion rates and employability outcomes are difficult to find and quantify precisely and mainly come from general opinions of companies, associations and limited academic institution databases.
There is a gap in the number of women participating in technical roles as is common across the globe and there are few community driven initiatives that are available to address this disparity on a significant level.
It was widely agreed that some form of skills audit of current digital skills based on the outcomes of this toolkit should be used either at an organisational or national level to form a starting point for digital skills goals and strategies.
More partnerships need to be made with international governments and corporations that can assist in implementing these plans and providing a range of valuable resources to meet the targets set and help each individual region move towards a global standard of digital skills adoption.