qDigital Skills Divide

The ‘90s constitute a period of significant technological transformation with a series of achievements and devises accelerating the spread of digital technologies for both the business world and households. At the same time, it was that definitive era that led people to understand that new ICT technologies did not only have a commercial appeal, but a personal as well.

The invention of the World Wide Web (www) by Tim Berners Lee, the establishment of companies, such as Microsoft and Google, and the mass production and disposal of personal computers and other relevant devices like mobile phones and laptops, further promoted digital technologies both into the workspace and peoples everyday life, thus characterizing this period as an ‘assimilation phase’.

Since then, the development and penetration rates of internet technologies in the population is impressive. While in 1993 internet users accounted to 14 million, with only 130 featuring webpages globally, in 2000 internet users exceeded 413 million whereas active webpages reached 17 million. Today, the number of people using the internet globally goes beyond 3.8 billion (namely 51% of the world’s population), while the number of available webpages is estimated at 1.2 billion. Facebook users alone could inhabit an imaginary country of 1.98 billion people.

On the other hand however, negative aspects of this tremendous development have been noted, introducing the term ‘digital divide’. Although this term initially referred to the unequal access rights to ICT tools and infrastructure, it later on recognized. among others, the aspect of “utilization”, defined as the competence of a person to operate and to deal with these technologies.

The European Commission, taking into consideration the necessity of digital technologies daily use in people’s professional and personal life, included the “digital competence” into the core competencies of Life Long Learning, involving ‘the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. It is underpinned by basic skills in ICT: the use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet’.

A recent study of IBM, performed amongst 1,200 ICT companies and experts  in 13 countries, concluded that 2/3 of the respondents believe that mobile devices, data analysis, cloud computing, and social network technologies, are of strategic importance to a company. In addition, 25% of the respondents highlighted the existence of a significant skill divide in each of the aforementioned domains, whereas 60% of them noted significant lack of skills.

The above conclusions are further supported by a research conducted by CEDEFOP (2014) within the 28 EU country members, which came to the conclusion that 43% of adult employees have noticed changes in the technologies they have been use over the past five years, thus making certain work positions vulnerable to automation, whereas 47% noted changes in the working methods or practices, due to technological evolution.

Digital Skill Divide within a company therefore refers to a mismatch between the skills of the employee and the skill demanded for the efficient and successful fulfilments of his tasks and duties. The continuing and persisting state of digital skill divide threats employee’s job positions while reducing company’s productivity, thus making it less competitive in the market.

Companies should therefore identify and highlight promptly, any asymmetries and mismatches for all human resources, with emphasis on those working on technologies (eg network administrators, developers, etc.), by using trustworthy Skills Divide diagnosis and analysis tools.  By concluding such a diagnosis the company can face any identified skill divides, with the design and implementation of in house training, which is considered as one of the main measures in order to gap the Digital Skill Divide.