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New ICT-barometer and action plan aimed at strengthening basic ICT-skills

December 14, 2007

Today the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (VTU) announced a new action plan for the strengthening of the Danish citizens’ basic ICT-skills (Source: http://get.dav.itst.rackhosting.com/Publikationer/Danskernes_it-faerdigheder/index.htm). The initiatives mentioned in the new action plan is especially targeted the so-called ICT-weak groups in the Danish population with no or low ICT-skills.  

The action plan is the result of a survey about Danish citizens’ (16 years or older) digital literacy. The survey was conducted and reported by the National IT and Telecom Agency (“Borgernes IKT-færdigheder i Danmark” January, 2007). According to the report approx. 40 % of the Danish population have no or low ICT-skills (more info about the report in Danish see IT- og Telestyrelsen: http://www.itst.dk/e-laering-og-it-faerdigheder/publikationer/borgernes-ikt-ferdigheder-i-danmark/Borgernes%20IKT-ferdigheder%20i%20Danmark.pdf ). The ministry announces that the survey conducted by the National IT and Telecom Agency will form the new national ICT-barometer.

According to the report about the Danish citizens’ digital literacy (p. 14) the survey takes point of departure in a concept of “ICT literacy” that is defined as a combination of technical skills and cognitive skills:

“ICT literacy cannot be defined primarily as the mastery of technical skills. The panel concludes that the concept of ICT literacy should be broadened to include both critical cognitive skills as well as the application of technical skills and knowledge. These cognitive skills include general literacy, such as reading and numeracy, as well as critical thinking and problem solving. Without such skills, the panel believes that true ICT literacy cannot be attained. (Source: “Digital Transformation – Framework for ICT literacy”, ETS, 2002, page 1: http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/Information_and_Communication_Technology_Literacy/ictreport.pdf)

It seems to me, that with an approach emphasizing cognitive skills, it is not a coincidence that the (international) panel’s definition of ICT literacy is also focusing on information, and that the overall aim is formulated as empowering people (individuals) to function in a knowledge society:

“ICT literacy is using digital technology, communication tools, and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge society.” (Ibid., p. 3)

The question is whether this concept and imaginary of digital literacy is indeed useful for the purpose of creating knowledge about whether Danish citizens are empowered to use ICT and digital media in today’s as well as tomorrow’s knowledge society?

Professor of education David Buckingham (Centre for the Study of Children, Youth and Media, London Knowledge Lab) is just one example of an internationally acknowledged media researcher who argues that when dealing with ICT and digital media it is crucial to be aware of the fact that we are not simply dealing with matters of information, technologies, and their functionalities.

According to David Buckingham “most discussions of digital literacy remain primarily preoccupied with information – and therefore tend to neglect some of the broader cultural uses of the internet… From this perspective, a digital literate individual is one who can search efficiently, who compares a range of sources, and sorts authoritative from non-authoritative, and relevant from irrelevant, documents… there is little recognition here of the symbolic or persuasive aspects of digital media, or the emotional dimensions of our uses and interpretations of these media, or indeed of aspects of digital media that exceed mere <<information>>” (Source: Buckingham, David, “Defining digital literacy: What do young people need to know about digital media?”, p. 266. Published in Digital Kompetanse, 4-2006, pages 263-276).

In a highly digitalized society like Denmark, we are continuously faced with multiple new media and media convergences. It is imperative that we include the emergent competencies that empower people to critically approach and engage in activities with new forms of media, and hence also in new ways of participating in an across different multimodal sites of activities. When using ICT and digital media we are facing complexities that transcend being able to send an e-mail, send / receive SMS, attach documents and claiming to be able to chat. In order to empower the Danish citizens we should be focusing on and encouraging multimodal and multiple media literacies.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves whether this ICT-barometer is in fact doing what we need?

What kinds of knowledge does it create? 

How does it provide us with new knowledge?

In which ways does it create relevant knowledge? 

How does it provide us with usable knowledge? 

How does it enable us to move in a relevant direction?

For further inspiration on this theme, I can recommend visiting David Buckingham’s homepage (see: http://www.childrenyouthandmediacentre.co.uk/staff.asp?TableName=&RowID=9&PeopleID=1) as well as Ofcom’s Media Literacy Publications and Research, where you’ll find reports on media literacy and adults, children and young people, older people, disabled people – just to mention a few. And two highly interesting reports “Adult Media Literacy” and “Media Literacy of Children and Young People”, both are reviews of research literature (See: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/advice/media_literacy/medlitpub/medlitpubrss/?=87101).

Sources in Danish about the new action plan and ICT-barometer:

http://www.itst.dk/e-laering-og-it-faerdigheder/publikationer/danskernes-it-ferdigheder-en-malrettet-indsats/danskernes-it-ferdigheder-en-malrettet-indsats and http://get.dav.itst.rackhosting.com/Publikationer/Danskernes_it-faerdigheder/index.htm

Related article in Computerworld (published December 21st 2007, 9.33 AM) under the headline “Critique: Sander’s new competence plan is a disappointment” (My translation. Original source:  http://www.computerworld.dk/art/43374?a=rss&i=0. Danish title”Kritik: Sander skuffer med ny kompetenceplan”). The main critique of the article is the fact that the ministry has only decided to spend kr. 10 mill. in relation to the new action plan.

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2 comments

  1. Great post and I think the questions you pose are really relevant. Especially I like the idea of asking ‘What kinds of knowledge does it create?’ – this is the question we should ask for the ICT-Barometer, the PISA tests and all other large, general ways of assessing skills/competences or literacies!


  2. Thank you so much for your comment, Thomas :o) . I agree with you, that one of the most important questions we should be asking ourselves (especially as researchers) is “what kinds of knowledge do our methods create?”. In a Science Technology and Society Studies (STS) perspective methods can also be viewed as sociomaterial and culturalhistorical technologies. Often, it seems, these technologies (e.g. Eurostat, PISA and other surveys) become accepted as neutral mediators and generators of indisputable facts (ahistorical apolitical etc.). This imaginary, however, ignores the fact that all methods are necessarily both historical, political, situated as well as partial. When we see that, we also start opening our eyes to the different kinds of knowledge that methods may enact. But maybe more important, we may also open our eyes to the various kinds of knowledge that the methods we use do not unfold. In other words, we may become more critically aware of and sensitive towards the presences as well as absences in our methodologies.



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