Digital literacy refers to the ability of users to utilise, access and productively use digital devices such as mobile phones, PCs/laptops and other platforms to share constructive news or events; enhancing their productivity rate at work; sensitising and informing each other; socialise and entertain each other; create a digital online community for social harmony as well as their creativity in creating and generating contents that other citizens may utilise to solve or minimise societal problems. This definition can further be expanded to include acquisition of special skills that will enable citizens to discover and use their moral obligations in the society. Being digitally literate, you will be able to tell what is ethical and not ethical in the digital domain and therefore, your actions will lead to a better and harmonised society for all.
Digital literacy skills are scarce nowadays, though we may be assuming that majority of the people coming from the universities and colleges with a pass in a computer/information literacy module are part of the digital space. What is hurting is that, some of the graduates from tertiary institutions were just minimally introduced to computer literacy modules such as word processing, spread sheet, Excel and at some institutions outlook for emails as well as PowerPoint for presentation purposes. This literally means, that universities and colleges are not equipping their graduates with relevant and appropriate digital skills for them to be ready for any possibility of digitalisation of services in their industry. It is surprising to see that majority of the staff members at various institutions were not really ready to offer online services to their respective communities by citing inadequate training received, infrastructures and overall attitude toward the use of digital gadgets and platforms as service delivery tools. In some cases, organisations ended up providing refresher or actual trainings via different online platforms to fill the digital knowledge gap in these employees to enable them to function properly and at an acceptable level.
However, some organisations failed to do a proper analysis for their ICT infrastructures and hence created confusion, stress and panic among their clients and staff members as they were also caught by surprise. It is a clear message that digital literacy skills can pave way for global citizenship, facilitate e-democracy and e-governance mechanisms in different countries. Without it, these e-administration service platforms and plans will remain dreams that cannot be realised one day on this earth. Pandemics or outbreaks such as Covid-19 require crises leadership skills and appropriate digital competencies of staff members as well clients to facilitate remote working or what we call teleworking and learning. A lot of complaints were raised online via social media by employees, as they felt less skilled to provide online services to their clients, as their digital literacy levels are not on par with the latest trend in the market. There are several factors that can contribute to a high rate of digital illiteracy among employees: a). lack of interest and longevity to be digitally literate; b) bad experience with ICT devices; c) lack of exposure to digital platforms and courses that can literate a specific individual; d) career progression and advanced age: by believing that I am about to retire so what is the use of learning how to send emails or use learning management systems to offer online services to my community; e) employer-employee restrictive factors such as backward management attitude toward digitalisation.
Usually if the leadership of an organisation is experiencing a digitalisation shock, this probably means that the management team have been digitally hallucinating that they are ready while their policies, systems, processes and infrastructures are somehow not ready for this, it may result in leadership confusion, panic and trauma. In most cases you will find senior members of the less digitally-ready organisations formulating overnight policies and procedures that are likely to cause confusion and stress to their clients or staff member is likely to retire early to avoid trauma and ending up receiving warning letters and called-in for disciplinary hearings. However, take note that, a situation like that serve as management testing platforms, because that is where we will be testing the capabilities, skills and competencies of leaders and managers in that organisation. As a leader in this case you need to be as honest as possible and have respect for your middle level management team, as they are more important in finding a solution to your organisational issues. Other consequences of not having a digitally ready team are that staff members are likely to be bulldozed by the senior management team, especially the middle level management team. It can be like this as the executive team is also not that digitally literate on certain aspects and they are just guessing on the probable solution to the problem that organisation is facing during a crisis.
Therefore, it is vital for all organisations and individuals in any sector to be digitally ready for the digitalisation processes. Institutions of high learning should equip graduates with relevant digital skills not just focusing on the basic Microsoft applications without even going deeper to teach them how to use them in case they find themselves in a highly digitised organisation. Having been in the education sector for over 15 years, I observed that our high education system also requires a greater transformation and repositioning strategy to ensure that we are producing graduates that are relevant and appropriate in the market. These institutions should have highly skilled and passionate staff members in digital literacy to ensure that these skills are transferred and really acquired. Being digital illiterate these days is equivalent to having a blank-signed certificate with no specialisation. So make yourself relevant and industry appropriate by choosing courses that will equip you with the right skills and knowledge.
To further, counter negative effect of digitalisation, organisations and individual staff members are urged to ensure that their ICT infrastructures are on par with their industry demands. Additionally, institutions of high learning should be the custodian of instilling digital skills among their graduates. They first need to find which digital skills are more relevant to which specific field. Graduates nowadays need to be exposed to various social media platforms or learning management systems regardless of their career specialisation. The aim is to ensure they are flexible and can remain relevant in the market. I am suggesting that a digital literacy module should be develop at our institutions of high learning and should be more practical oriented were issues such as Leaning management systems, Social Media, Digital ethics, online rights, mobile learning, platformasation, threats to digitalisation, digital SWOT analysis and others can be incorporated to ensure that we will produce much needed cadres.