ICT Literacy: What do businesses expect?

Accredited online professional development for teachers

By Michael Hilkemeijer

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is vastly becoming a very important aspect in people’s lives today. The everyday activities such as answering telephone messages and automatic teller machines, for example, has been transformed by ICT. It is now vital for every child, adolescent and adult to have general notion of their technological surroundings.

For the future workers of tomorrow, where more and more industrial, professional, and business occupations call for knowledge workers with the ability to use ICT fluently, the skill to be ICT literate is now a necessity as well as a right.

To be ICT literate means 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” (International ICT Literacy Panel, 2002). Individuals in a knowledge society require knowledge and skills to search for information, to analyse, synthesize, evaluate, channel, and present it to others, and to exercise judgement in order to predict, plan and control fast changing events (Semenov, 2005). ICT literacy is a critical skill that cannot be defined primarily as the mastery of technical skills. It is important to understand that it must be combined with critical cognitive skills as well. The effect of being ICT literate not only impacts the individual that has acquired these skills, but also society as a whole.

With the latest NAPLAN ICT literacy results indicating a decline in our students’ skills, this blog should stand as a reminder to those in doubt of using technology in the classroom how important it is help your students become ICT literate. They are, after all, the knowledge workers of tomorrow.

In 2010, a report was written by the Kennesaw State University on the ICT literacy skills that business desire today. It emphasises the significance of not only being competitive but having the right skills for students to have in order to thrive and survive in a digital economy. Skills such as navigating information effectively and using technology efficiently were mentioned in addition to understanding issues such as information security, confidentiality and ethical concerns. Businesses are searching for people with high level thinking skills such as decision-making and questioning as these have become the norm today. An intern’s ability to be able to use technology to solve an organisation’s problem is vital for the prosperity of its business. This also comes along with being able to use technology in a socially responsible manner. Other skills included:

  • Professionalism/work ethic;
  • Oral and written communication;
  • Teamwork/collaboration;
  • Critical thinking/problem solving skills.

To add further emphasis in relation to the significance of these skills for businesses today, two online surveys were conducted. One to human resources consultants where they were asked “do employers believe that ICT literacy skills are important qualities for new hire”.  Of all the emails that were sent out 88% submitted a fully completed survey. Results indicated that more than 50% of respondents rated all the elements of the ICT Literacy Framework (seeTable 1) as either Important or Essential. It clearly demonstrates that ICT literacy skills are of strategic importance to businesses. Table 2 on the other hand, indicates how 75% of respondents judge these skills as Essential. 

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