Digital Inequality

research on skills, uses, and outcomes of Internet technology

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From digital skills to tangible outcomes
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21st-century Digital Skills
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Social Context of Digital Inequality
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In the Media

Despite the fact that computers have become an integral part of the average workday, it is astonishing how few workers are using them—and therefore their time—efficiently. A recent paper ‘CTRL ALT DELETE — Lost productivity due to IT problems and inadequate computer skills in the workplace.’*(read it here) from the University of Twente states that the average Dutch employee loses 7.6% of productive time due to inadequate personal computer skills. The paper highlights various areas in which the employees polled suffer from lack of awareness or ability, ultimately stressing the importance of proper and thorough technical training. While the average worker may claim to have a general knowledge of computers, it is clear that certification courses, such as those offered by ECDL/ICDL, are becoming a necessity in the workplace.

Since on-the-spot test are unreliable in accurately assessing a prospective employee’s computer literacy, an employer essentially has to rely on the assurance of the employee themself. Situations will inadvertently arise when the employee does not know what to do, and Figure 2.1 in the paper shows that most workers will call the helpdesk, or attempt to solve the problem themselves through the aid of search engines. Often, time of coworkers is taken up in seeking solutions. While the helpdesk is appropriately named in this case, a more complete knowledge of ICT would undoubtedly be beneficial. ICDL programs teach the fundamentals of computer use to reduce these day to day issues. (When the helpdesk uses ICDL references they can also play a part in improving the user’s skill level.)

While it’s true that most have a basic understanding of programs such as word-processing or spreadsheets, for example, many do not use the programs efficiently or to their fullest capacities, thereby wasting time and productivity.

A significant portion of the paper discusses the usage of software on the computer. The top three most frequently used are word-processing, email and web browsers. Part of the issue may be that people may be hesitant to explore a new program that is beyond their technical comfort zone. Courses available within ICDL give the user the background knowledge and confidence to navigate a new program and not be intimidated by it.  For instance, in the New ICDL modules such as On-line Collaboration and Security will help employees efficiently acquire skills required in ‘cloud computing’.

To say that the average worker does not use their computer programs properly would be unfair. The very nature of technology is that it is always changing and improving. In order to make the most use of it, the user needs to stay up to date with their program knowledge. Finding ways to increase productivity in the workplace is always going to be in the forefront for any job/industry; taking the initiative to seek education and certification in computer courses can only be advantageous to any career path.