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Should digital literacy be part of general literacy?

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Digital literacy should be part of general literacy along with numeric and language literacy. This was the general consensus by panel members at a recent Human Resources (HR) influencer session looking at the impact of digital literacy on the workforce.
Hosted by Eiffel Corp, the event brought together leaders in the HR industry and tackled a number of questions related to the preparedness of school leavers and students for the workplace when it comes to digital literacy.
Head of strategic services at Eiffel Corp, Myles Thies says: we believe digital literacy should be integrated into primary and high school education from a young age. The early exposure to technology will give learners an advantage when they enter the workplace steeped in digital mediums of all descriptions.
“Digital literacy just isn’t optional. It’s a requirement for success in the 21st century workplace.’
If digital literacy doesn’t take place in the early learning stages students will find themselves ill-equipped for the modern environment that is increasingly domianted by technology. It’s a requirement for success in the 21st century workplace.
Project Isizwe believes that internet access is a human right and every South African citizen has a right to access a daily quota of free fast internet.
According to Project Isizwe spokesperson Dudu Mkwanazi, only 23% of South African’s have access to the internet, while 80% have access to water and 85% access to electricity.
“Internet access is a key in bridging the digital divide: achieving the democratic ideals enshrined in the South African constitution and enabling authentic equality between citizens by eradicating the gaps in education, health, employment and economic participation – this is the gap that Free WiFi can bridge,” says Mkwanazi.
Project Isizwe has built the largest public Free WiFi network on the African continent, Tshwane’s free WiFi network, hailed the Most Innovative Government Programme to Bridge the Digital Divide.
“The internet is a powerful enabler, even a small amount of Free WiFi can make a big difference to someone who otherwise would have nothing, or very expensive mobile data. In the hands of a motivated individual, 500MB support can be a powerful tool, when expanding educational and economic opportunities.
“Although there are over 3 million users in Tshwane, many South Africans don’t know the value of access to the internet. So for us there are two types of digital literacy, actual access and the immense value and opportunities that opens up, and the actual digital literacy skills such as apps, software and business programmes such as Grovo, Word, Excel.
“There is a direct correlation between internet connectivity and pass rates, which strengthens our mission, so all our programmes are based around schools or centres of learning,” says Mkwanazi.
Mkwanazi referred to research they have conducted to compare the learning style of children and adults.
“Adults learn, children acquire knowledge”.
Thies agrees that primary schools are focusing on numeracy and literacy, while high schools are focused on maths and science and there is very little time for the acquisition of complementary digital skills.
“Many educators themselves are not comfortable with the use of technology in a classroom and school leavers are largelly digitally illiterate when trying to get employment”, said Thies.
So digital literacy has different meaning for different communities:
• Access to devices;
• Experience to connect on a portal and get into the world of the internet; and
• Actual business programmes and applications such as Grovo, Microsoft Office that are workplace tools.