A new plan aimed at advancing the digital literacy of a nation

22 Oct 2009

The I-CANDO Digital Skills Programme aims to reskill 440,000 unemployed people and boost digital literacy. This is a national imperative, says Neil Leyden of the Digital Media Forum.

Across the world, whole nations are waking up to the opportunities of digital media. Ireland should be in the front ranks, so why the need to reskill?

The Digital Media Forum, which consists of 900 firms, realised that while Ireland has so many brilliant companies with content and applications for the internet coming out all the time, there are still so many Irish people who weren’t using these technologies and who didn’t know about them.

One reason was the lack of broadband, but the other was digital literacy and that took me by surprise.

How would you describe digital illiteracy and why must it be arrested?

A lot of people over 30 years of age and outside the technology industry struggle with digital technology, it is apparent that there is a fear of technology that people tend to avoid talking about.

The result is new opportunities being adopted elsewhere in the world, whether it is posting a video on YouTube, doing a Skype video call with relatives overseas or setting up a blog, are being ignored by many people who could have a lot to gain.

Apart from the enriching experience, the other reality is that employers of the future will expect candidates for jobs to be familiar with digital media tools.

What is the I-CANDO programme and how can people use it?

I-CANDO is an Irish start-up based in the Digital Hub and it created a programme that could help people. It is an e-learning programme that uses a blend of classroom lending. The best way to describe it is a next step beyond the European Computer Driving Licence Programme (ECDL) for the 21st century.

People can do it online because they don’t have the time to go to a training centre or they could be senior executives in organisations who may be embarrassed and don’t want to admit they have a shortage of knowledge around digital media.

What kind of content is included in the programme to give users a grasp of 21st century media?

There are seven modules. The first module is all about proper use of your computer, the second module deals with digital photography, the third module deals with digital music and the fourth module deals with video.

The remaining modules are focused on the use of social media from Facebook to Flickr and YouTube and how to share digital content online as well as storing and manipulating content on DVD, hard disks or online.

We are approaching 500,000 people who are unemployed, will digital literacy help people get back to work?

We recently held our National Digital Skills Week and believe this is a huge opportunity to train people for the smart economy because the skills I’ve outlined are the basic skills people will need regardless of what they do for a living whether they teach, operate a business or work in retail.

There’s an enormous amount of people who lack basic digital skills in Ireland.

Even to apply for a job today, nobody sends their CV in the post anymore. So you have to know about sending your CV, photo, portfolio online. If you don’t know even these basic steps, you’re already on the backfoot in terms of finding employment.

How would you describe the workplace of the future?

The future workplace has to embrace the use of social networking, blogs, wikis and even new work tools like Google Wave to improve efficiencies in the workplace.

The basic qualifications for work in the future will be a basic literacy that involves reading, writing, numeracy and digital technology.

A significant majority of Irish people would have experienced the ECDL and we would hope that we could achieve the same in terms of digital literacy.

One of the other problems Ireland faces is broadband access. If more people sought it the prices would come down. Another thing to remember is there’s a vast difference between simply looking up something on Google and then being able to use social media to connect online and build businesses.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Neil Leyden of the Digital Media Forum.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years