Our youth today is often called “digital natives” by adults. This is apparently because of the seemingly effortless way in which they engage with all technological things. From Instant-messaging, photo sharing, texting, to social networking, video-streaming and using mobile Internet, our youth have led the charge in new ways of engaging online. Nonetheless, this enthusiasm hides a potential problem. Although today’s youth need not be persuaded to take up Internet technologies as their skills improve quickly as compared to their elders, without proper guidance they remain amateur users of information and communications technology (ICT). This is a matter of concern for a generation of youth who are unknown to digital literacy, yet are deeply immersed in cyberspace.
This article revolves around what exactly is digital literacy and how important it has become today.
Although the term “literacy” generally refers to the ability to read and write, looking at the word “digital” before it adds on so much more to the meaning. Off course the core of digital literacy is still about reading and writing. But provided the new and ever-changing ways of technology that can be used to receive and communicate information, Digital literacy covers a wider variety of skills: from reading Kindle to determining the merit of a website to making and uploading YouTube content.
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.” Hiller Spires, a professor of literacy and technology at North Carolina State University, observes digital literacy as having three main elements. These are:
- Finding and consuming digital content
- Creating digital content
- Communicating or sharing content digitally.
The curriculum framework is a key requirement for the efficient use of learning technology. Technology improves best when educators deliberately use it in the curriculum they have adopted. It is all too often applied as an add-on to the existing curriculum. The “Four Cs” of 21st Century Learning: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity are the guiding principles behind digital literacy goals for students.
Critical thinking is described as the ability to design and manage projects, solve problems, and make effective decisions using a variety of tools and resources. Communication refers not only to the ability to communicate effectively, orally, in writing, and with a variety of digital tools but also to listening skills. Collaboration requires the ability to work in teams, learn from and contribute to the learning of others, use social networking skills, and demonstrate empathy in working with diverse others. Last but not the least; Creativity is described as the pursuit of new ideas, concepts, or products that meet a need in the world.
In India, three million panchayat members represent 6,50,000 villages and 2,50,000 panchayats. Approximately 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, the illiteracy rate is more than 25-30% and digital literacy is almost non-existent among more than 90% of India’s population. The country boasts the second-largest mobile market in the world, but when it comes to internet connectivity, it falls behind. In recent years it is becoming more and more essential to connect the community and its members through the Internet in order to ensure Community vitality for development and social progress.
According to the report by the IAMAI, in December 2011 in rural India, there were about thirty thousand Internet users. By December 2012, the 50 per cent increase that led to the expected 45,000,000 was largely driven by mobile Internet access, community centres, and cyber cafes. Although authorities are spending time and energy empowering the troubled community, the task of empowering rural communities to use ICT is difficult even today.
Digital literacy is essential in a country as diverse and populous as India. It can make a huge difference at the socio-economic levels of a community and ultimately to the country when it will be used for education and health care, citizen services, financial services, and all other basic needs as true progress is derived from inclusive growth. Digital literacy is crucial in e-services like e-commerce e-government, e-panchayat, e-learning and so on. In today’s world, technology is an inevitable part of our everyday lives, be it simply using mobile telephones, drawing cash from ATM machines, booking a train ticket, etc. It is, therefore, necessary, in the country, for each and every individual to use the technology with responsibility, to be equipped with the necessary abilities. Over time, the definition of who is considered as an educated person has evolved and without digital literacy it is incomplete.
The key element of the Prime Minister’s vision for “Digital India” is to make at least one person in every family digitally literate. It promises to transform India into a fully connected knowledge economy, offering world-class service with a click of a mouse. This vision aims to transform rural India’s life by turning every citizen into a complete digital literate netizen.
It is not sufficient to assume that young people have all the abilities, knowledge and understanding that they need to apply to their use of technology. The youth today needs to be supported for their prosperity in digital cultures. They need help to understand a fast-changing technological world that allows them access to a great amount of information that is infused by a business agenda and can be hard to interpret for many reasons.