Podcast 🎧 & blog: Developing digital skills, today and tomorrow

13.12.2023 | Federico Plantera


“Digital skills feel like a superpower. Because if you can use computers and the internet, the world opens in front of you,” says Kristi Kivilo, Senior Expert in the Governance and Engagement unit of e-Governance Academy. And digital skills, indeed, are the perfect example of something rather small, but that may have a tremendous impact on people’s lives.

That holds true in rapidly growing countries, in nations tackling issues of digital and media literacy, or in the day-to-day with common cyber hygiene practices. Kristina Mänd, Senior Expert on Engagement at the e-Governance Academy holds the microphone, in this podcast episode, and joins as a host her colleague Kristi Kivilo. Together, they discuss the relevance of developing digital skills, how did that go in the past couple of decades, and what lies ahead.


Digital skills, beyond just technology

Digital skills in today’s context go far beyond basic technological know-how. They encompass a comprehensive understanding of how to navigate and utilise the digital world effectively. As Kivilo emphasises, these skills are not limited to high-level technical expertise but also include basic functionalities like operating smart devices and using digital applications. Increasingly so, these skills are fundamental to participating in various aspects of life, including work, education, and social interactions.

The importance of understanding one’s own digital skill level is key. It’s not about categorising skills into basic or advanced levels, but rather about recognising those that are necessary for one’s personal and professional life. Kivilo and Mänd stress that while not everyone needs to reach an expert level, having a foundational understanding and staying updated with digital advancements is crucial.

Awareness-raising initiatives are one way to improve digital literacy. Tailored approaches, such as workshops for parents and school programs for children, help embed digital consciousness across different age groups. Such initiatives not only improve skills but also encourage a proactive attitude towards digital security and responsible online behavior.


Collaborative responsibility in skills development

The responsibility of cultivating digital skills is a collaborative effort shared among individuals, technology creators, and the public sector. While individuals must take the initiative to learn and adapt, technology producers have the responsibility to ensure their products are user-friendly and accessible. This collaboration is pivotal in building a digitally inclusive society.

In Estonia, public-private partnerships have been instrumental in advancing digital literacy. Initiatives like the Look@World Foundation demonstrate the effectiveness of such collaborations. The foundation’s efforts in providing training and resources have significantly contributed to increasing digital participation among Estonian citizens. This partnership model shows how combining resources and expertise from various sectors can lead to more comprehensive and effective digital skill development.

What are governments supposed to do, for their part? By integrating digital skills into educational curricula and public policies, governments can ensure that digital literacy is not an afterthought, but a fundamental aspect of a citizen’s development. Such an approach paves the way for more digitally equipped and resilient societies.


Two decades of training and advancing digital skills – with more to come

The evolution of digital skills over the past two decades reflects technological advancements and changing societal needs. Twenty years ago, the focus was on understanding basic computer functions and hardware. Today, the emphasis has shifted to more sophisticated aspects like online safety, data management, and utilising advanced digital services.

The progression of digital skills in Estonia, Kivilo and Mänd say, showcases this shift. Early efforts were geared towards basic computer literacy, but now the focus has broadened to include critical aspects like cybersecurity, information literacy, and navigating complex digital environments. This evolution signifies a move from just understanding technology to using it as a tool for empowerment and engagement in all aspects of life.

Looking towards the future, digital skills are set to encompass an even wider array of competencies. As Kivilo points out, the integration of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies will require new forms of literacy. The ability to interact with smart devices, understand AI-driven processes, and maintain online safety will be essential skills for future generations.

Digital skills are no longer just about operating devices but encompassing a lifelong journey of learning and adaptation. As we move forward and technology progresses, so must our ability to understand and harness it. The nature and essence of these skills is evolving, and responsibility in fostering a digitally literate society must be collective, shared. The examples from Estonia and eGA’s initiatives in Georgia, Ukraine, Namibia, and Estonia underline the importance of adapting to technological changes, and the need for a mindset that embraces continuous learning in the information age.



Listen to all episodes of the Digital Government Podcast here!

New episodes will be launched on Wednesdays.