Skillsets required for digital transformation

Gedeon Hakizimana, Senior Engineer, Rwanda Broadcasting Agency

Advances in technology – from the invention of the transistor to the fourth industrial revolution – propel substantial shifts in the skills needed on the labour market.

Social and digital skills are mandatory for success in today’s job market. Yet scarcity persists for these skills worldwide – especially in developing countries, and most acutely in Africa.

The digital skills shortage requires educational and capacity-building organizations, along with all other stakeholders, to urgently reform their training programmes. Only then can they equip the workforce with the necessary skills for countries’ economic development in the digital era.

Indispensable competencies

According to the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology Development, “digital skills” entail the indispensable competencies any individual needs in order to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) effectively in their personal or professional life.

To participate actively in modern digital life, people need a range of digital skills.

Constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic stimulated even greater demand for digital solutions and competencies. But some of these changes made a permanent imprint.

Now, we are starting to witness a post-COVID boom in digital solutions, platforms, products and services, which further amplifies the need for digital business processes and a digitally skilled workforce.

Types and gaps

People’s digital skills can be broadly categorized as basic, intermediate, and advanced. Basic digital skills relate to basic manipulation of digital devices, email communication, web search and online transactions; while intermediate skills relate to professional use of business software and data management. Advanced skills relate to data analysis, software development and high-level computing competences in the range of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.  While the precise nomenclature is context-dependent, many job profiles require basic and intermediate digital skills, while high-tech industries call for advanced or specialized digital skillsets to sustain innovation momentum.

While digital skills gaps have been noted by employers worldwide, managers across Africa are witnessing how a relative lag in digital readiness is increasingly hindering the continent’s competitiveness in the global economy.

The majority of developed countries, along with some Asian and Latin American states, have adopted frameworks to measure digital skills across their populations, as well as to support the development of education and training materials. In contrast, most African countries still lack a comprehensive digital skills framework.

More than half of school-age children and adolescents in developing countries fall short of the minimum proficiency levels in mathematics and reading. The lack of this foundation, even by the time they complete primary and lower secondary education, impedes their acquisition of digital skills.

The way forward

The time has come to turn digital skills challenges into opportunities. New and emerging digital technologies are creating millions of jobs, requiring people to learn new, initially unfamiliar, skillsets. For new graduates, the window is currently wide open for to add digital skills and information-technology certifications to their resumes and to pick the best tech jobs.

Still, any country’s success on this journey requires high-level synchronization between all stakeholders, from government leaders to the everyday citizen.

Decision-makers need to create an enabling policy environment, education providers need to address the surge in digital skills demand, and the private sector needs to invest in the workforce alongside all the other infrastructure and solutions to enable sustainable digital transformation.

Multi-stakeholder dialogues are needed across the public and private sectors to identify the key skills and competencies for tomorrow’s digital workforce. Education systems must also be adapted for the digital era, addressing the needs of the planet as well as each country, region, and locality, with sufficient investments in distance education for the most vulnerable.

Adapted from the article Skill sets required due to the digital transformation by Gedeon Hakizimana. Read the full article in Digital Skills Insights 2021.

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