The House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee has recently published its report on the digital skills crisis in the UK. The opening lines of the summary set the scene: “The evidence is clear that the UK faces a digital skills crisis […] only urgent action from industry, schools and universities and from the Government can prevent this skills crisis from damaging our productivity and economic competitiveness”. The report calls for educational establishments, industry and Government to work towards better preparation for digital careers; and for addressing the running sore of digital exclusion. It also criticizes the Government for the delays in producing a well thought out digital strategy.
Somewhat buried among the many submissions to the inquiry is a valuable contribution from Ofcom, the independent regular for UK communications industries. Ofcom demonstrates good judgement and understanding by proposing a definition of digital skills which is very closely aligned with vital imperatives for information and media literacy, by recognising the importance of critical evaluation skills: “Both children and adults […] need to be equipped with the ability to ‘navigate knowingly’ through the negative and positive elements of online activity, and make informed choices about the content and services they use […]. The cognitive skills required to understand, question and manage/exploit the economic, political and cultural power of the internet, are the same skills that are required to function effectively in the offline world”. This is very well put. It’s a shame that the Select Committee’s report didn’t make more of that particular aspect of the issues at hand.