Do you have the skills to pay the bills? You need digital skills to succeed in your career or get the most from your own business or side hustle. Yet, many of us lack some of the basic digital skills, creating a divide between our dreams and our opportunities.

What are these digital skills? What should we learn about the digital world to get ahead and gain the most from modern technology?

“One of the greatest things about the digital era is that the obstacles to learning new skills have faded away,” says Lesego Bobbi Nyamane, marketing manager at Acer Africa. “Many of these skills can be self-taught, with numerous free communities and learning platforms available to explore additional ones.”

However, a lot of people don’t know where to start, or they don’t realise what they don’t know.

To help close your personal digital divide, Acer South Africa offers some insights on kickstarting your learning journey and which skills to pursue.

Access to a computer and internet connection

You need access to a suitable device and internet connection to participate in the digital world. A device can be a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. While not every device will give you all the skill-learning opportunities, they can help you start to develop the most fundamental skills.

Ideally, you want to own a device you can control. But don’t let that stop you–you might have access to a family device, a school lab, or an internet cafe. Use those resources.

Prioritise the skills you want

It is effortless to use a device, jump online, and then just waste time. Plan the skills you want to learn and then put conscious time and effort into learning them. For example, you might want to learn about social media marketing.

Spending an hour watching social media posts is fun but won’t teach you anything. But if you spend some of that time watching videos specifically about social media marketing or taking a free course on the subject, you’ll make quick progress.

Decide what skills you want to develop and then set goals to learn them. Check the end of this article for a list of common digital skills.

Don’t look for a silver bullet

The online world is, unfortunately, full of scammers. They make promises such as ‘learn to program AI in 24 hours!’ or ‘Build a million followers in a week!’, charging huge fees for a course but promising big returns.

This is never the case. The best way to learn digital skills is by taking charge of your learning, seeking out specific knowledge you lack, and building experience through practice. Most free courses will tell you what you need to get going, and many paid courses just offer the same advice (or less).

Take a free computer literacy course

You might know your way around a computer or be very new to using your device. It’s worthwhile to take a basic computer literacy course online that will cover the fundamentals.

These can include different types of computers, operating systems, storage, going online, and the most commonly used applications.

Even if you know a bit about computers, such a course is a good refresher. Microsoft offers an excellent free course through LinkedIn, and Udemy also offers a top-rated free course.

Use free online resources

Once you know your way around your device, you can focus on specific skills you want to improve. These can range from creating great online content to using Microsoft Word to starting to dabble in basic programming.

Fortunately, you can learn many of these skills without spending a cent – numerous online learning sites offer free courses on a wide range of subjects.

Sites such as Linkedin Learning, Udemy, Alison, TechBoomers, DigitalLearn, and GCFLearnFree offer courses from knowledgeable teachers that will get you started.

Learn by doing

Digital technology is very hands-on. You’ll make the most progress by using services and figuring things out.

This can be frustrating, but that’s when you can use free courses and their online communities to get ahead. It’s also why you should decide what skills to focus on so you can invest time into using those skills.

The more you practise, the better you’ll get at and the more you’ll discover. To close the digital divide, your greatest asset is curiosity.

Which digital skills are important? There are numerous ones to choose from, but the following are the most essential:

* Computer literacy and basics

* Computer security and online safety

* Using a browser and online search

* The cloud and cloud technologies

* Online communication, such as email and WhatsApp

* Video and voice conferencing such as Teams and Zoom

* Creating and editing digital documents through Microsoft Word or Google Docs

* How to safely find and buy goods/services online

“Digital technology provides us with a lot of freedom and opportunity, but it’s up to us to seize it by acquiring the necessary skills,” says Nyamane. “There are great online resources and we often also know someone who can teach us a digital trick or two.

“Once you get started, you’ll witness rapid skill development and discover more ways in which digital devices and services can empower you to shape your future.”