The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills. The need for digital literacy has grown more than ever now. The pandemic has totally shifted the buying behavior of people from physical to online. This has led to massive digital transactions and online purchasing globally. But having said that, a majority of people are still left behind to cope with the digital economy and are facing problems adapting to the change in the digital world. This has caused distress among the people who are digitally impaired.
Let’s go deep down into the local economy of Nepal and consider the data on digital literacy among the people in Nepal. According to the Ministry for Communications and Information Technology in Nepal (2019), the digital literacy rate in Nepal stands at 31%, which is relatively very low. In addition, digital literacy is not only about how people use digital tools and technology to navigate information. But this is also about how much people are aware of the fraudulent behavior existing in the digital market of Nepal. As of January 2018, Nepal had nearly 9.3 million Facebook users. Entertainment and video sharing are other popular use cases with more than 6.4 million registered users on YouTube (MOCIT, 2019). Although, a lot of people are misguided and misled by the various kinds of information that appear in such digital media that leave them in massive trouble and confusion.
Such cases have urged many local initiatives like us to work on digital literacy-related workshops and training. We at Samsara Creation have also recently organized a workshop on digital literacy. The training was targeted toward intergenerational audiences comprising both young and adults who had little or no knowledge about digital literacy and consumer rights. The training was focused on digital information navigation as well as the use of various digital tools and technology to ensure that consumers can have easy and safe access to products and services online. We are also working as a platform for local artisans and modern designers where the exchange between knowledge and skills will take place, which means that local artisans will gain ideas on using digital media and tools to post about their products on social media so that they can promote their products widely in the social media along with the inclusion of modern designs. Likewise, even modern designers can learn about using traditional tools and technologies from the local artisans. This is a two-way learning approach from both sides which will eventually lead toward the co-creation in terms of both digital growth and preservation of traditional skills in the economy.
Digital Literacy itself is a vague term and consists of various aspects such as – Digital Consumerism, Digital Consumer rights, Information Navigation, Digital Financing, Digital Education, etc. Digital literacy can play a powerful role in helping people connect, learn, engage with their community, and create more promising futures. Simply reading articles online does not address digital literacy, so it is important for everyone to understand the variety of content and possibilities that are accessible online. This digital literacy course can help individuals gain the digital skills necessary to engage in a digital economy and improve livelihoods. Thus, with the increased need for digital knowledge in the post-covid world, it is almost very important that people should focus on acquiring digital skills and knowledge to cope with the ongoing digital economy.
The digital transformation has also increased the gap between developed and underdeveloped countries. It is not only the case in terms of countries but also between the people who are technically sound and who are not. Those who are technically able can perform well in the digital economy whereas those who cannot are left behind. As we discuss the role of digital innovation and transformation to achieve SDG 11, it is necessary that no individuals should be left behind in acquiring digital skills and knowledge. At the same time, digital innovation and technological change have also been linked with SDG 12 in the forms of responsible consumption and production which are often connected with the open disposal of electronic waste and also about the exploitation of human beings during the production process.
However, let us also discuss the darker side of digital innovation. According to the report published by McKinsey Global Insitute, it is estimated that about half of all paid activities in the US could be automated using existing robotics and artificial and machine learning technologies. This is one of the darker sides of digital and technological innovation that could create distress in the digital economy in the future. Having said that, it is always a necessity that people should focus on using digital tools and technology at least to adapt to the ongoing change and carry on their work in their workspace. In 2016, the report ‘Digital Skills for the UK Economy by Ecory’s for the department of business and skills defined digital skills for the workforce as “the skills linked to the use of applications in the workplace.” At least, it is necessary that even the working-class people should be digitally sound even in a small way to grab available jobs in the economy.
Therefore, Digital skill has been considered one of the most important skills needed in today’s generation. It has been more than a necessity after the covid because of the digital transformation and the need that people should get accustomed to it. It is an urgent need that institutions, private sectors, and government organizations should focus on digital literacy at all levels such that people are well aware of the basic digital knowledge and skills required for today’s generation.