New UN broadband report highlights emerging global skills gap

A new report from the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development titled “Digital skills for life and work” shows that education systems worldwide are only just beginning to help learners cultivate the digital skills they need to excel in increasingly digitized societies.

UN report

The report highlights the emergence of a new global skills gap where gender, class, geography and age can have a huge impact on whether a person is able to harness new technologies or not. It also presents strategies for ensuring all groups of people can develop these skills.

Underscoring the importance of the new report, Unesco director-general Irina Bokova urged the Broadband Commission and countries around the world to take heed of the recommendations and “support the development of a new generation of ‘digital citizens,’ with the right skills for life, work and engagement in the connected communities of today and tomorrow.”

The report was drafted by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s Working Group on Education, co-chaired by Bokova, and John Galvin, vice president and general manager for worldwide government and education at Intel. It identifies essential digital skills and competencies from basic skills to high-level professional skills.

Findings show that the development of these digital skills depends on a number of factors such as appropriate involvement of government, blending traditional ‘non-digital’ education approaches and digital applications, bridging formal and non-formal digital skills provision, and enhancing the digital competencies of teachers.

The report also focuses special attention to the often overlooked ‘complementary’ skills required to navigate technology-driven societies, such as an understanding of privacy considerations; knowledge of how to engage as responsible digital citizens; and awareness of how digital technology, big data and algorithms are shaping society.

Included in the report are policy recommendations that advise for governments to:

• Maintain public involvement in the increasingly commercially driven space of digital skills development.
• Redouble efforts to address inequalities in the provision of digital skills and competencies.
• Generate increased data on digital skills across populations to identify and fill gaps through education.
• Promote open digital resources and address needs not met by commercial providers.
• Foster partnerships with various stakeholders — including industry partners — to expand and improve the quality and relevance of digital skills development initiatives.

“Cumulatively, the case studies demonstrate that the health of local economies is improved by access to technology and — equally vital — knowledge of how to use this technology for social good,” said Galvin.

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