Table of Contents

  • The Digital Skills Toolkit was developed by Mr. Chris Coward, Principal Research Scientist and Director, Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA), Information School, University of Washington, Seattle and Michelle Fellows, Research Analyst, TASCHA, consultants to ITU, under the supervision of Susan Schorr, Head Digital Inclusion Division (DID) ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) with inputs from Mr. William Natta, Junior Professional, DID, and under the general direction of Kemal Huseinovic, Chief, Infrastructure, Enabling Environment and e-Applications Department (IEE), ITU BDT.

  • We are living in the midst of a digital revolution. More people are connected to the Internet than ever before, using digital devices and services for work and for all aspects of their life. In part this has been fuelled by the rise of mobile broadband, which every day ensures the participation of more people in developing countries in the digital economy. New technologies have also proliferated over the past decade – some even more recently – artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, cloud computing, Internet of Things, machine learning, mobile applications, nanotechnology and 3D printing among others. These will drive profound change in our daily lives over the coming decade, radically altering how we consume, produce and work. And, as with all transformational changes, they present us with great opportunity – and significant challenge too.

  • This toolkit provides stakeholders with guidance on developing a digital skills strategy. It is intended for policymakers, along with partners in the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and academia. Its overarching aim is to facilitate the development of a comprehensive digital skills strategy at country level. It is also possible to use this guide to focus on selected priorities that require a fresh approach.

  • The following pages pull together the strategic elements you need as a policymaker – or other stakeholder – to build vibrant digital skill development well into the future in your country, at national, regional or local level. As the seismic shift towards a global, digital economy continues to gather momentum, digital skills are increasingly moving centre-stage in all economies – both developed and developing. This digital skills toolkit, rich in real-life example and packed with practical advice, will offer invaluable help in making the most of the immense opportunity offered by the digital economies and digital societies that will define our future.

  • Given the degree to which digital skills touch every aspect of work and life, many countries' goal is to ensure that a broad, representative group of stakeholders engage in the process of developing a digital skills strategy. This chapter outlines some of the most common stakeholders that should be engaged – but please note that this is not an exhaustive list. In particular, since digital divides tend to exacerbate other social divides, it is crucial that groups that are often excluded from policy-making processes have a voice. This chapter also identifies, a range of models that can engage stakeholders, a tool to facilitate the formation of a country's stakeholder group and guidance on governance and working methods for such groups.

  • Many countries have policies and programmes aimed at advancing the ICT sector. These might include providing e-government services, improving healthcare with ICTs, equipping schools with computer labs, offering e-agricultural programmes, implementing digital literacy missions, promoting digital transformation plans and many other priorities. Sometimes these policies are coordinated. More often they are developed independently. The purpose of this chapter is to capture and assess these policies and programmes as an important starting point for the development of a comprehensive digital skills strategy. This chapter also includes tools related to inventory and to the assessment of existing policies and programmes.

  • National digital skills strategies need to ensure that everyone has the basic digital skills to function in society as well as opportunities to gain intermediate skills that improve employment prospects and enable more meaningful uses of technology. This is the focus of this chapter. It includes common challenges, successful approaches and sets out a range of channels for basic and intermediate skills delivery – as well as tools to identify such channels and programmes that may exist already. Chapter 6 covers advanced skills.

  • In addition to ensuring adequate opportunities for everyone to develop basic digital skills, national skills strategies must secure their position in the digital economy by providing pathways for some to develop more advanced and specialized digital skills. The government can play a key role in cultivating talent to fill emerging jobs in the burgeoning tech industry, and in doing so spur future industry growth and job creation. Reskilling and retraining individuals is a critical piece of this endeavour, to ensure the existing workforce remains abreast of technological changes and does not fall behind with an obsolete skill-set. As with Chapter 5, this chapter covers common challenges, successful approaches, and a range of channels and examples for providing advanced digital skills training. It also includes a tool to identify and assess providers and programmes that deliver advanced digital skills training.

  • Many countries are taking steps to create more inclusive, equitable opportunities for populations that have been under-represented among internet users. These groups may have had fewer opportunities to use digital technologies and develop basic skills for any number of reasons, such as cost, age, social norms and expectations, physical ability, awareness, geography, level of education, or language spoken. Furthermore, those self-directed few who have acquired basic skills through an introductory computer course or online course may have encountered too many barriers to continue building on their knowledge and gain entry into the workforce. This chapter addresses these important issues, identifying common challenges, successful approaches, and several programme examples for the following groups: women and girls, persons with disabilities, aging populations, and migrants and refugees. This is followed by a tool for ensuring that a digital skills strategy meets the needs of priority population groups.

  • This chapter covers campaigns and other multi-stakeholder initiatives as a means to building awareness, creating excitement, and otherwise motivating people to learn digital skills. Campaigns are particularly effective for focusing national attention, engaging partners, and launching major programmes. They can be global, regional, national, or local, and should always involve a wide range of sakeholders. Many campaigns include festivals, hands-on demonstrations, or other live events that can be held in a single location or across hundreds or thousands of voluntary sites. Countries often conduct campaigns to target populations that are at risk of being left behind – e.g. women, out of school youth, and persons with disabilities. This chapter also includes a tool to identify opportunities for organizing a campaign or multi-stakeholder initiative.

  • This chapter highlights the opportunity of utilizing the tremendous range of training resources available online. Both the volume and quality of online learning resources increases daily. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), YouTube videos, interactive learning modules, and many other resources are available on the internet, much of it free or at very low cost. Codecademy, for instance, provides free coding classes in twelve different coding languages, and has been used by over 25 million learners. Khan Academy offers exercises, instructional videos, resources for parents and teachers, and other practical resources to provide free education to everyone. Many of these resources are available in multiple languages, though English still dominates and many minority languages suffer from significant availability gaps.

  • As stated at the beginning of the toolkit, technology is changing constantly, requiring new digital skills to succeed in life and work. This dynamic environment requires countries to establish targets, monitor digital skills programmes, establish processes for reviewing progress, and to perform periodic updates to national digital skills policies. This chapter covers different approaches and examples for conducting national skills assessments.

  • Some of the most extensive efforts to advance digital skills have been undertaken in Europe.

  • We are living in a time of remarkable technological development, the digital transformation enabled by artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cloud computing, Internet of Things and robotics. Predictions abound about how these new technologies will change the future of work and life in the digital economy. They have already given rise to new ways of working, including digital entrepreneurship and digital freelancers.

  • Digital skills are now a prerequisite for anyone in any country to participate meaningfully in the growing digital economy and society. This toolkit has aimed to equip policymakers and other stakeholders with practical guidance for developing a digital skills strategy tailored to individual country needs. While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy – each country has unique strengths and goals – there are a number of promising approaches that have proved their worth in many contexts, offering every country a range of models to explore and adapt. It is hoped that the tools are useful in sparking discussions leading to concrete steps through new policies and programmes.

  • Very few of the terms below are internationally agreed. Footnotes have been provided for definitions included the ITU terminology database. Other definitions are based on those found online, such as the Cambridge English Dictionary at https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/ for which references have also been provided. Terms without references are informal descriptions provided for the ease of users in reading this toolkit. As terms are continuously evolving, users are encouraged to consult several online sources for the most current usage.