Have you ever installed a new device or moved a file? These are the types questions that Eurostat uses to estimate an individual’s digital skills. While it would be hard to argue that Eurostat, and other statistics gathering institutes, do not provide vital statistical information on wide range of topics, they are not without limitations. For example, respondents answer based on how they perceive their skills, rather than using a test to verify their actual skills level. This creates a problem, as people tend to think that they have higher digital skills than they actually do. This issue is explored in the new position paper published by ECDL Foundation, ‘Perception & Reality: Measuring Digital Skills Gaps in Europe, India and Singapore’. The paper provides proof that self-assessment is not a reliable measure of digital skills and argues that self-assessment tools should always be paired with an objective measure of actual skills levels, such as a diploma or a certificate.
The paper uses the results of six digital literacy studies that were carried out by ECDL National Operators and ICDL Foundation in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Singapore, and Switzerland. The studies found that the inaccuracies of self-assessment tools were consistent in all the studies. For example, the first major conclusion from the studies is that self-assessment is a poor indicator of one’s actual performance caused by the fact that people often overestimate their ability. These findings are significant because of the implications they hold for the growing digital skills gap in Europe.
The paper continues to examine the issue and offers an excellent insight into digital literacy by dispelling common misconceptions about digital skills. One common misconception explored by the paper is the false notion of ‘digital natives’. The fallacy of ‘digital natives’ suggests that younger generations have an almost innate sense of digital skills, gaining competency through exposure to technology. The paper argues against this and offers evidence that shows that young people do not acquire digital skills without structured education and training.
The paper concludes by arguing that the inaccuracies of self-assessment tools could be addressed by pairing them with certification. Certification defines skills and knowledge that individuals need, guides and validates training, and provides proof of the skills acquired.
You can download the full paper on ECDL Foundation’s website.