Today, in an everyday digital world surrounded by videogames, smartphones, digital social networks and online chats, still 45% of the European Union population and 37% of its labour force have insufficient digital skills. Having digital skills is nowadays also relevant for having a job. The digital transformation is changing the labour market and the job nature, in which those without the appropriate skills experience more difficulties to be employed. Indeed, 42% of those with no digital skills are unemployed, only 44% of the EU-28 population judge their computer skills as sufficient if they were to apply for a job within a year and 40% of the employers report they cannot find people with the right skills. So soon after ‘Youth Skills Day’, these findings give pause for thought.
Data reveal that transversal skills such as digital skills are becoming relevant for young people to be included and find their way in the labour market. In order to help assess the extent to which people have these skills today, since 2013, the European Commission has provided the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp), a common language to describe digital competence, which is used as a reference in several countries and regions in Europe, and which was recently updated in May.
DigComp was developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) as a scientific project and with intensive consultation of stakeholders, initially on behalf of the Commission’s Directorate-General (DG) for Education and Culture, and more recently, on behalf of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. First published in 2013, DigComp has become a reference for the development and strategic planning of digital competence initiatives both at European and Member State level. We believe it could be a useful model for others to consider as they start to think of how to measure their own progress against Thematic Indicator 16 in Target 4.4 of our global education goal, SDG 4.
DigComp describes what digital competence is and groups the competences in five areas: Information and data literacy, Communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety, and problem-solving. Its latest version, DigComp 2.1 (published in May 2017), describes those competences across eight proficiency levels, from foundation/beginner to highly specialised, and offers examples of use applied to employment and education in the form of infographics and visual guides. As in the image below, the development of a digital competence across the eight proficient levels is illustrated with a metaphor “Swimming in the digital ocean” in which autonomy, cognitive domain and complexity of tasks interact and increase in difficulty for a digital competence, as learning to swim supposes as a first step from getting wet the feet in the sea, until be able to sail, passing by showing and helping others to learn how to swim.
DigComp 2.1 is a further development of the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. It presents 8 proficiency levels and examples of use applied to learning and employment.
DigComp has supported education and employment authorities, organisations, companies and citizens from EU Member States to count today with specific tools to improve and streamline digital skills. For example, INTEF of the Spanish Ministry of Education has implemented a framework to improve the teachers’ level of digital competence, as well as a portfolio of MOOCs and tools to inform and certify teachers’ digital competence. France has developed PIX and the Basque Region (Spain) created IKANOS, both assessment instruments to evaluate digital competence. Other examples are the digital literacy training and culture Pane e Internet, developed in the Emilia –Romagna Region (Italy), and the Digital Skills Indicator created by the European Commission to measure the level of digital competence of the EU population.
The next step in DigComp is to ensure that digital competence can be properly assessed for those with low and no digital skills, including the youngest. For that purpose, the DigComp assessment instrument for foundation and intermediate levels is in elaboration and will be ready in summer 2018. Support to the wide range of organisations taking advantage of DigComp to develop their own strategy to raise the level of digital competence of their population is another challenge. Guidelines for DigComp implementation will be therefore available at the beginning of 2018 to respond to this need.
More information from all our studies and current activities can be found on the JRC Science Hub page on DigComp.