Digital Inequality

research on skills, uses, and outcomes of Internet technology

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In the Media

Computers are essential in today's workplace, and the effective use of technology is vital for economic growth, productivity and innovation. Recent research published by the University of Twente in the Netherlands shows the impact that a lack of ICT skills can have on a national economy.

The findings of this study, 'Ctrl Alt Delete: Lost productivity Caused by IT Problems and Inadequate Digital Skills at Work' (currently available in Dutch language only), highlight that, on average, workers in the Netherlands spend almost 8 % of their day trying to resolve issues relating to the use of technology in the workplace - with this figure rising to 10 % for lower-skilled workers. 

In addition to the high figures in relation to the loss of productivity, what is equally surprising is that workers and managers seem to be unaware of the problem, and believe their ICT skill levels to be of a sufficiently high standard to perform their job functions effectively- despite the fact that the majority of them reported never having undergone any formal ICT skills development training. 

The report was co-commissioned by the multi-stakeholder inititative 'Digi Safe & Digi Proficient', a government-led organisation that works to ensure that the Dutch working population possesses sufficient skill levels to operate ICT and the Internet effectively. According to the organisation's chairperson, and European e-Skills Ambassador, Ms Tineke Telenbos: 

"A productivity loss of €19 billion is unacceptable; a reduction to zero is impossible because new ICT developments and new software programs always cost more money. It is the underestimation of the problem, and the overestimation of workers' own digital skills that makes the loss in productivity especially dangerous. Employers should identify which applications and systems are causing the greatest losses of time, and implement concrete solutions...In addition, employees must be trained and tested so that digital skills increase, and the amount of time wasted is reduced." 

The findings of the University Twente report support the results of a 2010 study from the Applied Research and Innovation Department of a business school in Greece. That report found that investment in ICT skills training and certification is highly effective, and that it represents a real and immediate return on investment for companies. ICT-trained employees are more efficient, they work quicker, and make fewer mistakes; and the time that supervisors and other colleagues spend dealing with difficulties is halved where employees have been trained. Companies also benefit by having much more accurate knowledge about the skill levels of employees and can therefore deploy them more effectively. 

These studies support the position of ECDL Foundation; as Europe slowly exits the deepest recession in decades, businesses everywhere are seeking ways to save money, to improve performance, and to leverage the skills base they currently have to better effect. ICT skills training and certification can make a real contribution in this area and can help deliver a more innovative, efficient, and productive economy.