At a time where there is a constant buzz around 4IR, it is difficult to imagine that the majority of South Africa still does not have access to reliable and consistent internet. According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), only 37% of South African households have consistent access to internet through devices such as phones and computers. The question that arises though is, “Of this 37%, how many can use the internet effectively?”
The American Library Association’s digital literacy task force defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” The lack of internet access makes it difficult to be digitally literate, which in turn has an impact on navigating one’s schooling, career and the workplace environment. Even in the case of those who have access to internet, there are few and far between who use their devices at full capacity.
Being digitally literate has become a prerequisite in society. However, those who have already been digitally connected are always at the forefront of many opportunities that are offered. It is becoming more difficult to break into the job market without any digital skills. Gavin Weale of Digify Africa, says “digital skills are needed in almost every job, whether it’s a purely digital job or more conventional job in every sector, from retail and finance to construction and agriculture.”
COVID-19 has exposed the divide that exists between those who have digital literacy and those who do not. Many educational institutions and companies were propelled to sink or swim in a pandemic that threw us in the deep end. The need to incorporate online and digital operations was a key element in staying afloat. While this was an inevitable direction society needed to take, it was also a harsh reality. According to Stats SA, 83.5% of private learners (about 550 000) could, with minimal disruption, continue learning from home through online platforms. However, for public schools the number of learners who could continue learning from home, was 67.1%. Many public school learners were (and still are) restricted to textbooks and worksheets distributed to them and/or radio or television broadcasts.
Businesses and other various industries were no different. They were suddenly forced to carry out all operations online. Job applications, interviews, meetings and a host of other transactions needed to be conducted online. We were forced to conduct all communications, processes and operations through online platforms. Those who had seldom or had never used online platforms almost exclusively, were now required to do so, which left a lot of people exposed and vulnerable. It suddenly became clear that sending a decent email, is not a simple and straight forward action for everyone.
The pandemic provided the sobering reality that computer applications like Microsoft Office, emails and using and understanding internet search engines, may not be “basic” after all.
This is an indication that investing in digital literacy is important and will equip society with the necessary skills needed to navigate the workplace environment, thus improving efficiency and even opening up economic opportunities.
MISA offers its members soft skills training that can equip them with the necessary digital skills needed to set them up for success!
Contact the MISA Training Department for more information on our Soft Skills Training program on 011 476 3920 or by emailing Training@ms.org.za.