Equipping populations with the skills to shape and secure their digital future

20 Dec 2017 10:15h - 11:45h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

This panel tackled digital literacy and surveyed global trends, programmes, and activities from stakeholders around the world. It focused on the existing gaps and possible opportunities to overcome them. Mr Thomas Whitehead, Director of US Government Affairs at BT, moderated the panel and briefly brought up the skills needed to shape the digital future. 

Mr Jon Chippindall, Learning Resource Developer at Barefoot Computing Project, connected remotely from his classroom along with two students, and showed what computing looks like in his classroom. He showcased the games, animations, tools, and computing languages used by the schoolchildren. Chippindall explained that the programme has proven useful for the children, who are engaged and challenged, as it ignites their creativity.

Mr Virat Bhatia, Chair of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, explained that literacy and languages are a problem in a very populous country like India. The government is working on this issue through a large digital literacy programme, complete with multistakeholder engagement. With the basic platform in place, the programme will attempt to bring digital literacy to 60 million families by March 2019, through teaching adoption of new skills and methods. Bhatia argued that through programmes such as this, the rural world, the bottom of the pyramid, is being brought up. He said that the next big challenge is video, which is experiencing a boom.

Ms Elizabeth Maya, Government of Mexico, emphasised that technologies are changing how communities are working, and there is ongoing reform aimed to digitalise the country. Development of digital skills is part of the new learning curriculum, adding programming and robotics, with practical guidance for teachers. Contractual documents have been established with civil society and private companies to set up this platform, with collaboration from several areas of the Mexican government. 

Mr Edward Choi, Youth Representative from NetMission.Asia, suggested that while many young people use ICTs, most of them don’t care about Internet governance (IG). It is important to change the curriculum of the education system, as there is no C++ programme in Hong Kong secondary schools, or other skills. He also presented NetMission.Asia and its work promoting IG and digital inclusion, through Youth IGF and by having youth teaching other youth. Choi described it as a multistakeholder, youth-led initiative, about learning to get involved in IG, and capacity building. 

Mr Kenta Mochizuki, Public Policy, Corporate Intelligence, Yahoo Japan, explained the poor labour productivity problem in Japan, and how the country’s strengths are in education and IT human resources. Mochizuki also talked about the work that Yahoo is doing together with the Japanese government to help with the specific digital literacy issues in Japan, like providing coding classes, e-commerce platforms, and even helping with teaching. This is in line with the idea that each stakeholder should have different roles in promoting digital literacy.

Ms Samar Baba, President of the Tunisian section of IEEE’s Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT), argued that investing in new technologies, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is important in connecting people, by providing Internet access, building a process to foster interaction between communities, and developing a community-oriented mind set. Baba maintained that social connection and change are key values in digital literacy. Only 40% of schools are connected to the Internet in Tunisia. With the support of the government and IEEE, they are providing workshops for children, recognising competition as important, and providing content that contains relevant information in order to meaningfully empower youth. 

Ms Sharada Srinivasan, Research Fellow at 1 World Connected, explained her work on a project to connect people, through capacity building, to the Internet on both the supply and demand side. Srinivasan explained that skills training takes two key forms, one being basic literacy training on how to use computers and creating basic apps for the Internet, while the other form is teaching specific skills, in local communities through local context. Local engagement is important, as localised digital skills training for livelihoods creates more impact. She gave an example of how a remote island which recently connected to the Internet was able to decrease mortality significantly, since it connected them to doctors they couldn’t have otherwise reached. Thus, she says, using the context to identify the local need is very important. 

The panel had a significant portion of time dedicated to interactive participation, through breakout groups, which covered a wide range of digital literacy concerns, from empowering women to retooling educational institutions, and responsible and safe use of the Internet by youth.

By David Morar