Skills solutions are discussed elsewhere in this toolkit. Skills issues arise in terms of:
- literacy skills – lack of literacy skills is a serious impediment to inclusion, and while the UK Strategy document recognises that “rich media like video can help people with low literacy build digital skills” the majority of information available on the Internet is text based, the majority of business communication is text based, and indexing and search functions require text-based information to support information discovery. Literacy issues may be the underlying reason for lack of motivation to engage with digital technologies and support for the development of reading skills is often required to be embedded in initial digital literacy support. It’s also important to recognise that reading ability is in itself insufficient to be able to take advantage of what’s become described by many as an ‘information age’ information literacy issues are also a significant barrier to digital inclusion (recognised, for example, by SQA in its new Professional Development Award Digital Passport at SCQF levels 4 to 6 which is structured at each level with three units: ‘Network Literacy’, ‘Social Media Literacy’ and ‘Information Literacy’.
Similarly, language can be a barrier, even for the most literate of people, if English is not their first language, Where access to the technology permits, English for Speakers of Other Languages courses use the Internet as one of the tools for supporting learning, and for supporting integration (for example, making use of online resources about the local area, using (with caution) online translation services etc.).
- confidence – even very literate people can lack confidence in their ability to use information and communication technologies, which can appear complex, not helped by the inevitable technical language. Importantly, signatories to the Digital Participation Charter commit to “using common language based on digital participation and basic digital skills, to make our thinking and actions as clear as possible”. However, lack of confidence can arise anyway especially for people for whom school was an unsuccessful experience or for people who’ve not engaged in learning programmes since leaving school. Confidence issues are best overcome by supporting people in or signposting them to informal learning opportunities within communities, where peer support can assist. We’re all, to some extent, lacking in confidence about things we don’t know yet, but people lacking in confidence tend to assume that is a lack on their part rather than a general phenomenon …
- security skills – lack of trust in the technology also affects confidence, and online security is a complex area, although basic steps can keep people secure online. For individuals, guidance is available at Get Safe Online. For providers of community access venues, it’s important that that steps are taken to protect personal data (for example by using software which removes temporary files between users) and that users know that any personal data they transmit is not available to subsequent users; and
- basic digital skills – the basic digital skills people need to be properly included in digital life are described in the section relating to the Go On Basic Digital Skills Definition.