A Digital Europe: Everyone Needs to Go Digital
Digital technologies are changing almost every aspect of private or public life. For every individual – the pupil, the student, the worker, and the citizen – the natural consequence of technological development is the quest for learning opportunities and new skills. Despite this, the ability to deal with all changes does not come as fast as technological development. By 2060, one in three Europeans will be over 65 years old but 53 % of the elderly in the European Union (EU) today has never used the Internet. Does it mean that the same future – poor accessibility to services, lack of digital skills and support – awaits young people?
Being Online Does Not Mean Being Skilled
According to the European Commission report, 95 % of the 16–24-year-old people in the EU are regular internet users. However, being online does not mean being skilled.
First of all, the lack of digital competences is noticed in education: hard as it is to believe, more than half of children never use digital equipment in their classroom. Owing to this fact, the situation requires close cooperation among different sectors and fields, for example, the public sector, NGOs, youth centres, specialised programmes, etc. Due to the lack of equipment at schools, this would create additional learning opportunities in different environments or at least ensure accessibility to information how to gain some practical skills outside of school. Furthermore, more drawbacks are descried in teachers’ competencies: only 20–25 % of school children are taught by digitally confident and supportive teachers. This can make an impact on using digital equipment at schools or promoting to do it in general. As a consequence, working-age people face not only technological development but also gaps in digital skills (probably not) gained at school.
Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs
A strong digital economy is vital for European competitiveness. Digital development is having a massive impact on the labour market and the type of skills needed in the economy and society because:
- it is changing the structure of employment and creating new types of jobs;
- it is leading to the need for more skilled ICT professionals in all sectors of the economy. It is estimated that there will be 825 000 unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals by 2020;
- in the near future 90 % of jobs (in careers such as engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, art, architecture, and many more) will require some level of digital skills;
- it changes the way we learn by fostering online communities, enabling personalised learning experiences, supporting the development of soft skills, and making learning fun.
- it is leading to the need for every citizen to have at least basic digital skills in order to live, work, learn and participate in the modern society.
This is why in March 2013 the European Commission launched the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs – a multi-stakeholder partnership that endeavours to facilitate collaboration among business and education providers, public and private actors to take action attracting young people into ICT education, and to retrain unemployed people. The high-impact actions at the local level have already been launched in 8 countries (BG, EL, IT, MT, LT, LV, PL, RO).
In fact, real actions have just started but the aim to raise the number of students in ICT does not grow over the idea that students acting in different fields need to have digital skills, not just those who become ICT specialists.
Upon some facts and reflection, returning to the question “SHOULD or IS it”, it is better to answer “should” and expect that by 2060 nowadays young people will be able to answer “it is”.