On International Literacy Day, let’s look at what literacy means in the digital age

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It is no longer enough to be able to read and write, digital literacy is now essential to be able to interact with the world around.

To mark the 53rd International Literacy Day, I decided to focus on literacy in an increasingly digital world. Technology is shaping every aspect of our life: at home, at work, and in the community. Basic digital literacy is now key to access everyday public services. It is no longer enough to be able to just read and write.

But what kind of digital skills do people need to navigate in a digital world? Where does the world stand on digital literacy, and how can we contribute towards inclusive, sustainable development?

To find answers to these questions, I invited two guests with in-depth knowledge on the topic to share their insights. Participating in this conversation, I have with me my colleague Anurag Pratap, Capgemini India Digital Inclusion lead and Frederick Bardeau, CEO of Simplon, Capgemini’s global Digital Inclusion partner.

Our ambition is to be the bridge between technology and society. To achieve this goal, we are committed to Digital Inclusion, which is a key pillar of our Corporate Social Responsibility program – Architects of Positive Futures.


Lucie Taurines

Hi everyone and welcome to Capgemini Digital Inclusion podcast. Bonjour! My name is Lucie Taurines and I am your host and Capgemini Group Digital Inclusion leader. Today, we are going to talk about our aim at Capgemini to make digital an opportunity for everyone.

The world celebrated International Literacy Day on September 8, and so we are dedicating this podcast to literacy in a digital world. Technology is shaping every aspect of our life: at home, at work, and in the community. Basic digital literacy is now key to access public services. It is no longer enough to be able to read and write. Today, if we don’t want to be left behind, we need the skills to navigate the digital world.

Over the years, the meaning of digital literacy has changed and we have today two field experts with us to tell us what digital literacy is and why is it so important in this day and age. Joining me today are Anurag Pratap, Capgemini India Digital Inclusion leader and Frederic Bardeau, CEO of Simplon, which is our global Digital Inclusion partner. Anurag is joining me from Mumbai and Fred from Paris.

And you know what, I feel very lucky to have this job and to be able to work every day with such passionate people on Digital Inclusion projects. So, before we kick off today’s podcast, Anurag how about you share a fun fact about yourself with our listeners.

Anurag Pratap

Lucie, I love french fries. Give it to me any day, at any time and I would love having them.

Lucie Taurines

Okay, thank you very much Anurag. It’s really funny. So now what I will do is every time I come to India, I will try to bring French fries with me. Okay, what about you Fred

Frederic Bardeau

I discovered India this year, during a mission with you guys. And every day now I miss India. This discovery has changed my life forever. So thank you!

Lucie Taurines

Okay, so now Fred let’s start with you. As we already know, we are living through a digital revolution that can widen social divides. What does it mean to be digitally literate today and how important is it?

Frederic Bardeau

It is very important Lucie. Because you cannot be a digital citizen, access your rights, read information, access public services, or pay your bills, if you are not digitally literate. So to be a citizen in a digital society, it’s very important to be digitally literate. It is also important to get a job and to be employable. Searching for a job online requires digital literacy. Many jobs require digital skills, even if they are not digital jobs. So digital literacy is very important. And now everyone is in the digital business. For example, even if you want to sell vegetable, it is better to do it online to get more customers, partners and suppliers, and to be more aware. Even to be a consumer these days, you require basic digital literacy. Not only that, to be a good father and mother also, so that you are able to guide/accompany your children online, it is important to be digitally literate. It is important for everyone, anywhere in the world. No matter what your job or country of origin is, you have to be really active in terms of digital literacy.

Lucie Taurines

Thank you very much, Fred. That’s really insightful. Next question to you, Fred: As an international organization, can you tell us about the state of digital literacy at a global level? Is there a common pattern that you have noticed?

Frederic Bardeau

Yes. In 2019, there are four dot ninety billion internet users. This means one in two people in the world still do not have access to the internet. So it is not only about digital literacy, it is first about digital access because half of the population in the world has no access to the internet. And of the people who have access, one in three people have difficulty in accessing their rights and to browse online. It is the case in France, and it is also something that you can see in other countries. Though there are no specific figures on this, but one out of three people who are digitally connected face difficulty with basic digital literacy. And it is not only old people and under-privileged people, but everyone across countries, social classes, ages and genders are affected. In addition to this, if you want some specific parameters, you can take into account such as age, because when you are older, say for a 70-year-old, it is a real problem to be digitally literate and stay connected. The rural population also faces similar difficulties. In developing countries, there are fewer public services online, for example in Africa, there is a specificity because the global connection is about mobile and desktops. And it can generate illiteracy online because it is online and mobile connections.

Lucie Taurines

Thank you, Fred! So now let’s move to Anurag. My first question for you: Anurag: You are heading Capgemini’s Digital Inclusion projects in India. And I feel very happy and lucky to have had the chance to go on the field with you and visit some of the very impactful projects that you have in India. Could you share with us where India stands on digital literacy and what are the main challenges?

Anurag Pratap

India is huge and you are aware of this. There is one section in India which is always available and enabled in the digital world, and this section has understood the potential and possibilities of digital. But there is a sizable number, close to 90% as per a recent study, which is not digitally connected. And that is the population that we all are concerned about and we all are working with. We are looking at how we can make this segment (of society) digitally literate so that they can get all the benefits that Fred was talking about. So that’s the constituency, or that’s the catchment that India is looking at right now as far as digital literacy work is concerned. On the challenge front, the size is the key challenge, the population is the main challenge for us. The second challenge would be infrastructure development to make sure that this 90% who are not yet part of the digital literacy bandwagon can be included. The other challenges would be bandwidth availability and the capacity to scale. Along with all these, looking for potential NGO partners and potential agencies who can help us reach out to those unreached areas or population who are socially excluded from development processes are some of the challenges that one can think of and one is working on.

Lucie Taurines

Thank you Anurag. My next question to you Anurag is what do you think is the way forward? How do we tackle these big challenges that you are talking about and what are the best practices that you have seen and developed so far?

Anurag Pratap

There are two/there approaches that we have brought in in our work. One is coming out with more collaborative approach to reach out to a larger segment of population because we realize that there cannot be just one agency doing this. So working with governments, working with various corporates, working with various agencies, and creating an alliance to reach and work with this particular number. That’s one strategy that we have brought in. Second is starting more digital literacy centres in areas that require this service, on an urgent basis. Third is trying to create a module that can be replicated by other agencies, where governments and other corporates can find it easy to take the module and do it on their own. Fourth is understanding which group requires what kind of digital support so that it becomes part of their life, and they start enjoying and they start learning and they start feeling empowered by the whole process. So these are some of the strategies that we have picked up based on our own learning and experience. And along with these, identifying the right kind of agencies to partner with us is another important element of our engagement at the field level. This enables us to reach out to socially and economically marginalized communities. This also helps us to identify the right groups with the right kind of inputs, and in the process get the right impact that we are seeking by bringing in digital literacy to these communities.

Lucie Taurines

Now, last but not the least, my last question is for both of you. Currently, unemployment is a big concern across the globe, so how can digital literacy solve this problem?

Frederic Bardeau

Digital literacy is the first basic step to discover the fantastic opportunities that can lead to digital skills jobs for underprivileged people. This is what makes us wake up in the morning at Simplon and I know it’s the same for you, my dear friends at Capgemini CSR. Digital skills are like a magical power. It should be spread across countries, to reach everyone, starting with underprivileged people because there are millions of unfilled job positions and opportunities. But you have to be digitally literate for that. This is the only pre-requisite. So we have to fight for this. But it is not about only skills, it’s also about censorship. It is not only about technology, it’s about people from different culture and active pedagogy. The good news is that this is exactly what we are doing together.

Anurag Pratap

And from my side, I completely agree with what Fred is saying. In addition to what he said, I also feel that, rather Capgemini feels very strongly that digital literacy is part of the spectrum of the whole work we are doing on digital empowerment. And we feel that the advanced level of empowerment is about how employability and skilling can become part of this journey. What we are doing is, we are making digital literacy the first step to expose them to the digital world and make them comfortable with it. And then gradually take them to the space of skilling in future skills, help them get jobs, and make them a productive and important part of the overall development process that is happening at the family level, society level and at the state level. That is the journey that we have started because we strongly feel that employability skilling and subsequent jobs will result into a huge amount of empowerment to this section or communities with whom we are working, which includes socially and economically marginalized communities, people who come with some amount of stigma attached to them due to various reasons, and also involving those groups who never got the true benefits of various development processes.

Lucie Taurines

Thank you very much Anurag and Fred for joining us today for this podcast. And I would also like to thank every single one of you for joining in from whichever location you are currently in. I hope today’s podcast provided you with relevant information which you can use to make a positive change in society. And I think the three of us will agree that we really need that kind of change.

If you enjoyed this podcast, do share it on social media with #4PositiveFutures. Also, don’t forget to rate this episode. By doing this you will help others find relevant information about digital inclusion, digital literacy and spread awareness about the good work done by Capgemini and the partners.

If you are interested to know about our digital inclusion initiatives, visit us at www.capgemini.com. Goodbye for now and have an impactful day.

Let’s build together positive futures!

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