Why Adults and Young People May Not Have Fully Developed Digital Literacy Skills
There are numerous personal, social and economic reasons why adults and young people may have not fully developed digital literacy skills, as outlined below.
1. Essential Skills Needs
Whilst hardware and software is available for blind and partially-sighted computer users, for the vast majority of people, being literate is a pre-requisite to becoming ‘digitally literate.’ If a user is unable to read and understand the commands and prompts provided by a digital device, then they are unlikely to have fully developed digital literacy skills.
The key findings of the 2010 National Survey of Adult Skills in Wales1 report, identified that literacy levels in Wales had improved since the previous study, undertaken in 2004. Only 12% of those studied had essential skills needs in literacy, compared with 25% in 2004. Nonetheless, that represents an estimated 216,000 people in Wales, with essential skills needs in literacy.
2. English May Not Be a User’s First Language
Due to the significant increase in immigration from Eastern European countries, over the past decade or so, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is also posing additional literacy challenges. The 2011 Census for England and Wales2 identified 4.2 million usual residents, aged 3 years and over, whose first language was not English. Of those, 138,000 could not speak English at all. A further 726,000 could speak English, but not well. If a user does not have access to digital devices in their native tongue, then this can also restrict their ability to become digitally literate.
3. Culture and Beliefs
Socially, there are still many cultures who do not believe in educating women. Consequently, many will not have developed digital literacy skills. Such opposition to female education was highlighted in October 2012, with the Taliban shooting of 14 year old Pakistani school girl, Malala Yousafzai. The Taliban, who had taken control of Swat Valley, where Malala lived, banned female education and destroyed many of their schools3. Due to her outspoken condemnation, Malala was shot in the head and neck. While this may seem unlikely to occur in western countries, many families still hold traditional beliefs as regards a woman’s right to education.
More mature adults may simply feel that they are too old to learn digital literacy skills. The older generation would not have been taught digital literacy in school. Consequently, they may lack confidence and be afraid of ‘breaking’ the computer. They may also question the benefits of acquiring such skills, especially if they have gone through life without the need to use any digital devices.
There may also be a genuine fear of fraud or identity theft in using the internet. As technology is constantly changing, there may also be a fear of being able to keep up-to-date.
Those living in remote areas may simply not have access to reliable broadband or internet services. There are even some parts of rural Wales where a mobile phone signal cannot be received. Similarly, local services such as schools and libraries, are likely to face the same difficulties.
Not everyone has the financial means to purchase computers, laptops or iPads. Those on a low income are unlikely to be able to afford expensive digital devices. Even if they did, they may not be able to afford the monthly broadband fees needed to access the internet. If someone does not have access to digital technology, then they are highly unlikely to have the skills needed to use it. Furthermore, as technology is moving at such a rapid pace, hardware and software quickly becomes outdated. This may deter people from investing in purchasing laptops and computers.
- Miller, N. and Lewis, K. (2011) National Survey of Adult Skills in Wales 2010 p. 34, Cardiff: Welsh Government. [15 October 2017]
- Office for National Statistics (2013) 2011 Census: Quick Statistics for England and Wales, March 2011 p. 6. [15 October 2017]
- BBC (2012) Malala Yousafzai: Portrait of the Girl Blogger. [15 October 2017]