The report released yesterday, 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, said a statement from UNESCO.
The report also presents strategies for ensuring all groups of people can develop these skills.
Underscoring the importance of the new report, Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, 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."
In global terms, the report said that the 'digital inequalities continue to be well-documented and, in many instances, divides across lines of geography, gender, age, physical abilities, socio-economic status, language, and educational attainment are growing'.
"Over half of the world's population (some 3.9 billion people) remain unable to connect regularly to the internet. Many of these people are living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with six countries (India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria) accounting for around half of the world's offline population," said the report.
Drafted by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's Working Group on Education, chaired by Ms. Bokova, and John Galvin, Vice-President of Intel, the report 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.
Recent analysis shows that, according to the report, within developed economies, 90% of jobs require some level of digital skills, while more than one third of the labour force has an extremely limited ability to use ICT productively.
'Digital skills are no less crucial in developing countries,' said the report while adding, 'In Kenya and India, for instance, an internet-connected device can serve as a bank, postal service, map, library, learning hub, translation utility and record keeper, all rolled into one'.
Policy recommendations to governments
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 John Galvin, the Vice President and General Manager for Worldwide Government and Education at Intel.
Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 and comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors. They are committed to actively supporting countries, United Nations experts and Non-Governmental Organisations to fully leverage the huge potential of Information and Communications Technologies to drive national Sustainable Development Goals strategies in key areas like education, healthcare, gender equality and environmental management.
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