The importance of digital technology in life

Our era has come to see the vital importance of digital technology in our daily lives. It allows us to unlock a huge collection of information and communication data. Each kind of task, be it a regular task or a job specific task requires digital proficiency or literacy. Digital literacy can be defined as “the ability to use digital technology, communications tools, and or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge society” (Lemke, 2003). The execution of a successful approach for the advancement of digital literacy skills is known to include multiple components that tackle hurdles for explicit demographics such as; attitude, age, socio‐economic status, language, and regional availability of resources. In order to increase digital literacy levels strategies must be targeted and implemented, where necessary for specific populations and situations keeping an account of different obstacles. According to (Castells, 2009) there is a technological transformation with the increasing use of internet access. Therefore, technology transforms the mode or platform in which we converse and process knowledge. A substantive growth in execution of information and communications requires improvement in quality of life and development by preparing people for a knowledge society. As said by (Castells 2009, pg 21) networks demonstrate strength in their flexibility, adaptability and capacity to self configure. Therefore networking is here to reside and education has no alternative but embrace it. In this essay the basic focus is on the need to develop nation’s digital skills at all levels as it is gradually becoming important in the present period where technology and its benefits are becoming more sophisticated and pervasive. By critically discussing whether developing the nation’s digital skills at all levels helps in achieving fairness rather than amplifying it in the presence of various inequalities?

The Digital Britain report sets out an action plan to contribute its full potential to secure UK’s place as one of the world’s foremost digital knowledge economies which is significantly dependent on having enough people with the accurate skills in the exact place at the precise time by applying new technologies; further assembling a high class of professionals and ensuring Britain’s future prosperity. The issue is not only of financial competitiveness, but also of fairness which is defined as ensuring that all have access to the content, services and skills to contribute and connect effectively to the digital economy and the benefits are available to all. There is an immense range of services delivered online while also a hazardous threat to those who lack or struggle to access technology. Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media (November 2007) believes that “It is neither morally acceptable nor economically sustainable to leave millions of people behind, unable to use information and communications technologies to their advantage.” However it is of upmost importance to transform the lives of those who are excluded in order to avoid the major parts of our society being deprived and enduringly lag behind. Though, the matters about digital exclusion broaden far-off than ensuring access to internet albeit with the increasing role of the internet in daily life, an analysis of utilizing the opportunities offered by the internet is of fundamental significance.

To critically discuss the actions taken by The Digital Britain report in line with developing nation’s digital skills; it is required to understand and discuss why should there be an urgency to build on the nation’s skills, what digital skills are currently being delivered, how these are processed, how is it made sure that no one misses out and lastly to what extent the contribution of internet access is helping the society to improve the present inequalities? In this essay, we will discuss and argue the answers to these questions to aid us in understanding the relationship between digital inclusion, digital skills and media literacy. The essay will first converse about the opportunity to ensure that no one is prevented from access to broadband followed by raising the topic about engaging the society to use and understand the digital media and finally, providing them with the capability to develop and acquire the necessary digital skills to involve themselves in the digital economy with confidence and support.

Whenever we talk about building the nation’s skills, the first thing which comes to mind is the need to incline towards digital economy. In today’s changing business scenario most of the positions advertised by the recruiters require at least some type of IT-user skill. In the year 2009 around 92% jobs required applicants to hold both general (hardware and software skills) and specific application skills (such as databases, and spreadsheets) in particular. For Britain to increase its competitiveness in the global economy of 21st century, it requires to create awareness among people to embrace the digital technology for a safe speculation of an information revolution that can alter every part of their lives. Therefore the government has taken various inspired initiatives to educate everyone with a vision to shape a brighter future for Britain.

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Talking about UK’s present landscape as per national statistics, the number of adults who have never accessed internet in 2010 is about 9.2 million. The National Digital Participation Plan in collaboration with Digital Britain Report has set a determined aim of reducing the number of non-internet users in the country by 60% by 2014 by overcoming the three barriers to digital inclusion – availability, affordability and capability. For this, the UK’s government is committed to distribute broadband services universally up to 2Mb/s by 2012 which is a significant step to ensure more of the general population in the UK will have an opportunity to access to the internet. The ‘Race Online for 2012’ program in the UK challenges governmental and non‐governmental stakeholders to work collectively to aid the deprived groups to enhance digital literacy skills making it affordable for them. According to (HM Government, Nov 2009) “The best use of digital technology, either directly or indirectly to improve the lives and life chances of all citizens, particularly the most deprived, and the places in which they live”. Hence, the various proposals by Race online 2012, Digital Charter, Digital Champion and expert Taskforce are considered to take imperative steps to reach the next level for forming a fully digitally engaged society which encourages excellence and fairness. Over recent years the government has enhanced its understanding of social exclusion through scrutiny of cohort studies and longitudinal surveys.

Information has become one of the chief inputs in financial procedures, and information and (ICT) steadily became vital for the capability of enterprises, communities and individuals to contribute effectively in the global economy (Hollifield and Donnermeyer, 2003). When wisely applied, ICTs recommend prospects via network effects to narrow down social and economic inequalities and to sustain innovative market access in services and support wealth creation. The basis of inequalities in internet access and use are frequently hinted back to usage factors (price of technology, lack of information, ability or operational skills) and psychological factors (nervousness about using technology or reluctance to try something new) (Van Dijk and Hacker, 2003). There is a crucial need to tackle the difficulty of the particular individuals and communities who might have lack of knowledge, the resources, or the ability to achieve an equivalent opportunity to contribute in society and economic life. For the ones working in more disadvantaged communities, and who see the impact of technology on people’s daily lives, the relations among digital and social equality are perceived without any doubt. However, it is argued that the spotlight should be on structuring the business case for digital inclusion quantitatively and qualitatively.

According to Castells despite the globes increasing interconnectivity there are some individuals that are extremely involved in a global networks and others stay mainly excluded. Therefore the analysis of international digital strategies and European Union actions lists key international policy goals: digital equality, accessibility for all, literacy and digital competence, technology to enhance and technology for inclusion in order to gain better understanding of the needs and problems and by delivering affordable services to engage individuals with the internet sources in an attractive way. Consequently this explains how various international policy goals helps individuals to overcome various psychological factors like anxiety and lack of interest by accustoming them to the available technology.

According to (Reaching Out: Action Plan on Social Exclusion, September 2006) “It is possible to extend opportunity to the least advantaged so that they enjoy more of the choices, chances and power that the rest of society takes for granted.” Ofcom plays an imperative role in promoting media literacy and persists to work with stakeholders in turn to: offer people the opportunity and inspiration to develop proficiency and self-confidence to participate in communications technology and digital society; and update and allow people to handle their own media activity (both consumption and creation). This argument follows up and agrees with the statement made by Selwyn (2002) about the significance of considering the diverse variety of activities which are associated to internet use (expenditure activity, investments activity, manufacturing activity, political activity and social activity). Accordingly, government in collaboration with the assistance of private and public media organizations operates as a unifying and funding source in support of digital literacy programs. Further in order to sustain media literacy; enriching public services like libraries and museums can offer individuals an enhanced quality of life.

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Baroness Estelle Morris (June 2009) published her autonomous appraisal of ICT user skills. The report states arguments about the term ‘digital life skills’ and how it is used to recognize the set of essential ICT skills for using and accessing a computer and communicating information. It discusses that digital skills have an impact on an adult’s equality of accessing information and services, employability, social inclusion, further engaging into learning and increasing the business productivity. Morris’s report supports and affirms the statement made by Stewart (2000) that equality is achieved not through a redistributive programme on resources but contribution in person and through shared life chances. Whereas Castells (2009, pg 57) disagrees and argues that even with “developing access to the internet and to wireless communication, abysmal inequalities in broadband access and educational gaps in the ability to operate a digital culture tend to reproduce and amplify the class, ethnic, race, age and gender structures of social domination between and within countries”. Following these arguments, the research led and conducted by Cassie Hague and Ben Williamson (August 2009) shows that any involvement in digital sharing helps in alleviating the inequalities caused by social class and ensuring optimistic results for everybody despite of their gender, ethnicity and social milieu. The government legislation under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 also promotes equality of opportunity by eliminating various racism based discrimination. As a summary, this explains the initiatives taken by the Digital Britain and the UK Government to overcome various inequalities.

Kling (1999) hypothesized that internet use is an issue of social-technological access referring to infrastructure and physical availability of computer resources in contribution with the combination of specialized knowledge, financial resources and technical expertise required for the full utilization of ICT. E-skills main aim is to work with employers, educators and government to make sure that UK has the technological skills it requires to thrive in a global digital economy. A current thesis from the London School of Economics (LSE) concludes that half of Europe’s efficiency in recent years can be credited to IT investments. Today, a large sector of all working professions make use of technology, therefore it is reasonable to assume that everybody should be introduced to essential information technology (IT) skills. The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) has recognized various standards in the regions of essential digital skills and career technical skills. The typical example is the e-Europe plan, which has affirmed objectives of constructing a digitally literate Europe. The British Government’s proposal incorporates two extraordinary cabinet posts known as the e-Minister and e-Envoy to position and install the suitable infrastructure and ICT widely.

The Digital Britain report also highlights numerous methods in which the digital plan can assist parents to recognize improved results for their child through Home Access Program, helping them to develop the digital skills in order to confidently support their child’s safety; to effectively and efficiently use the internet content in turn helping young generation to make the most out of the new technology. The UK‐based Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum argues that in the future it will become even more important that children have the ICT skills which allow them to relate themselves to the upcoming technology and face the challenges with self-confidence and flexibility. As technology can motivate students and help prepare them for prospective jobs. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 from the US department of education aspires to seal the success gap among deprived and struggling learners and their peers. The program pursues the argument that all kids can be trained and that schools are responsible for a kid’s growth. This highlights the steps taken by the governments of UK and US in order to furnish the future generation of their country with the aptitude to be technologically competent and to inquire appropriate, suitable and significant questions about the digitalized saturated world of 21st century.

To digitally include everyone in the economy, the government has taken various initiatives to include old generation as well. According to the research by HM government there are a range of barriers like lack of understanding and confidence, comprehension to use the equipment, fear and anxieties and sense of inertia and ageism due to which older generation is left behind. To overcome these obstacles, digital inclusion programs are adopted such as Age UK internet champion of the year, older people in the media award winner etc to provide them with various opportunities and to develop the basic ICT skills; further boosting their confidence and embellishing older people’s lives. Hence, to seal the digital skills gap, upcoming economies are required to improve the aptitude of their personnel for internet age roles. This can facilitate in creating a sustainable social and economic infrastructure. As a result, to ensure that older people are not isolated from digital economy, help is provided for them to engage in significant technological opportunities to support independent living and to benefit from the services widely available.

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On a nationwide perspective Britain has already taken a lead in enhancing the national digital literacy widespread and laid down a remarkable standard for Canada which is working towards creating the right circumstances for a world‐class digital economy by solving the skills shortages among different Canadian groups. Countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and in recent times the USA, have made digital literacy a keystone of their digital economy strategies. In contrast to Singapore, Britain shows a lack in participation in digital economy, reaching near 100% whilst studies in Singapore show a 100% commitment and participation. This shows a vast difference in the objectives already achieved and future aims of both the countries. Though this difference, UK is trying to strike a balance between digital inclusion and exclusion by developing a National plan for digital participation, to amplify the scope and prepare people to participate in the digital society.

This essay sets out a framework adopted by the Digital Britain report and the government to address the problems related to digital inclusion, digital skills and equality. If we critically analyse the data and information covered in this paper, we can clearly interpret the numerous ambitious goals the UK government have set out in the near future. The aims listed by the government enclose various actions needed to be undertaken by the UK economy in order to attain the listed objectives in the Digital Britain report. The discussion about the universal availability and fairness for all allowed us to think whether people will engage in this new technology and embrace it in near future or not? According to Charles Leadbeater, people go online for three different experiences such as to enjoy, talk and fulfil new experiences, as media encourages them to experience, connect and be creative. Digital Britain report has little to talk about this mix. Another aim is to provide affordable and attainable broadband facility to every household. Although these courageous plans are backed up with vast quantities of data and research, simply building technological infrastructure and access will not guarantee the people of Britain to be innovative to generate an environment for digital revolution. For that reason the UK government needs to publicly show more specific ideas and plans about what is wants to see happen in the near-term future rather than using the blurred terminology which hides the true picture than it should reveal. The Digital Britain Report shows clear positives and negatives about the aspects we have covered and albeit there are criticisms, the pros outweigh the cons as written in this paper.

The whole composition tries to answer the questions regarding the key issues of Digital skills, Digital Inclusion along with fairness and access for all and the concerns regarding inequalities. As the internet is becoming an amplified trend (Van Dijk and Hacker, 2003) Digital Britain’s goals were clear from the beginning regarding developing nation’s digital skills at all levels by ensuring that the population is ready to use and access the digital technology confidently. There is an essential need for digital literacy to further aid the citizens to participate in the digital landscape. To acquire skills there is a requirement in this era to have a grasp on the knowledge about digital tools, critical skills and social awareness. For digital inclusion; capability and relevance, availability and affordability are three main areas which are required to be addressed in order to promote digital literacy and participation. This consequently increases the scope of fairness in the economy. The concern is not only about the fairness and digital inclusion but is also to overcome inequalities. To avoid inequalities based on socio-cultural and socio-technological perspective, the government legislation has taken various actions in terms of proposing programs like Race online 2012, Digital Charter, and Digital Champion. On a global perspective comparing to different nations, UK is establishing a vision to develop clear and simple techniques to construct a digital knowledge economy in the modern era. Therefore in conclusion, UK government is motivated with its goals for broadband speeds and to encourage people to access new digitalized technology. What remains at question is that do people want to be part of this new web technology and are they ready to accept it and embrace it in near future?

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