Collaboration between community, state and corporate sectors is needed to ensure every adult in Ireland has the necessary literacy, numeracy and digital skills to fully engage in society.
That is the view of Heydi Foster, Chief Executive Officer of An Cosán, Ireland’s largest community education provider.
Speaking at a ‘Leaving No One Behind’ digital inclusion webinar hosted by An Cosán this morning for its community partners, Ms Foster said, “We need a whole of society approach to a whole of society problem. Digital literacy is fast becoming an essential requirement for life, work and learning. Without digital literacy, citizens cannot participate fully in society, or acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in the twenty-first century.”
Calling on all sectors to commit to work together, Ms Foster said, “Almost one in two adults in Ireland has low digital literacy levels, according to the Digital Economic and Society Index 2018. This is something that we all have a responsibility to address as a matter of urgency.
“A collaboration between community, state and corporate sectors is urgently needed to ensure every adult has the necessary literacy, numeracy and digital skills to fully engage in society. Let’s all commit to working together to help those we support realise their full potential.”
Ms Foster added, “Founded 35 years ago in West Tallaght with a mission to eradicate poverty by empowering people through education, the aim of An Cosán has always been to leave no one behind by reaching out to the furthest behind first.”
Roisin Doherty, Director of Further Education and Training Learner Support at SOLAS, was a guest speaker at the webinar. Ms Doherty spoke about how the aim of the government’s 10-year Adult Literacy For Life (ALL) strategy, which she was instrumental in developing, was “An Ireland where every adult has the necessary literacy, numeracy and digital literacy to fully engage in society and realise their potential”.
Ms Foster was a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the 10-year ALL strategy and spoke at its launch on 8thSeptember.
An Cosán’s Digital Inclusion Coordinator, Mark Kelly, shared during the webinar how An Cosán had been working with its partners to develop innovative solutions to address digital exclusion in Ireland, including a Digital Stepping Stones (DSS) tool developed with Accenture that allowed people to evaluate their digital level competency and to see where they needed to upskill to fix any gaps in their digital skills.
Since its rollout in 2020, Mr Kelly said the tool had been used by more than 5,300 people across the Further Education and Training sector, including Education and Training Boards (ETB) centres, regional Community Training Centres (CTCs) and local development companies, family resource centres and other community organisations.
In order to support the ALL ambition to reduce Ireland’s basic digital skills gap from 47% to 20% of adults, Mr Kelly announced the development of a new suite of digital learning materials to complement the success of the DSS assessment tool, using DigComp, the European Digital Competence Framework for citizens.
Ariana Ball, Corporate Citizenship Lead at Accenture, also spoke during the webinar. She talked about how an increasing dependency on digital resources meant that those who didn’t have the skills required to interact digitally risked being marginalised. She also spoke about the importance of adopting a growth mindset that will not only help us to start our digital learning journey, but to embrace continuous learning as digital technologies continue to evolve.
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