ICT Insights: What are digital skills?


Digitalization has become the buzzword of the past decade, especially with the evolution of broadband internet, both mobile and fixed. High-speed internet is enabling new ways of doing business by relying more on electronic communications and transactions. The control of these digital tools used in business requires certain know-how, hence the term “digital skills” being emphasized nowadays.

Back in the 1990s, when the internet was becoming mainstream three essential skills were in vogue; these are how to use an internet browser, a search engine, and sending an email. In our current times, these skills are considered prerequisites. Sending an email at work is currently the most dominant method of formal communication, while the de facto search engine everyone knows is google-if you want to search for something on the internet, you might as well “google” it. In addition, no one goes to the World Wide Web without using internet explorer (now replaced by Microsoft Edge) or one of its rivals like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc. With the evolution of the internet from web 2.0 to web 3.0, there is currently a larger set of digital skills. This article will attempt to explore the current categories of contemporary digital skills albeit not exhaustively.

Computer programming/coding

Computer programming or casually called coding has become pervasive in our digital world. This skill involves writing instructions that can be understood by the various computer applications or devices we use in the digital space. Not only games and industrial applications require coding in the digital space. Marketing, legal, as well as all other sorts of applications, require the implementation of some logical instructions for the applications to run what is required of them. Mailchimp, a popular bulk email distribution application still requires some kind of logic to generate a template for bulk email distribution, even though it is user-friendly. Coding can be done in many programming languages, from C++ to Java, through JavaScript. Due to the plethora of languages available one wonders what is needed for the digital world. The two predominant languages so far are Java and python. Due to its relatively easier learning curve, python is arguably the coding language of choice in our current digital world. This language is also used a lot in automation tasks that are becoming the norm due to the large amount of data needing some processing or cleaning or wrangling.

It must be added that due to the rigours of this digital skill, a lot of professionals who are not IT-savvy tend to shy away from developing this skill; it is relatively not easy for marketing or finance or human resource, or accounting professionals

with many years of experience to devote time to pick this coding skill. IT companies like Microsoft and others have identified this gap and are developing solutions to help such professionals. These solutions are usually called low-code applications. They are based on APIs (Application Program Interfaces) that do the bulk of the code syntax on behalf of such professionals while they mainly go through a drag-and-drop process; pretty much like writing code without typing some esoteric syntax.

Content creation/societal media marketing

Content creation has also become a very useful digital skill nowadays due to the major role it is playing in social media marketing. The ability to create attractive audio-visual online content is no longer overlooked. A whole industry has grown out of this trend. The existence of social media and their use for advertising means traditional marketing is morphing into digital marketing. This new marketing space is predominantly driven by influencers who are usually figureheads in society with millions of followers on social media. These influencers who are usually celebrities or professionals in all kinds of industries from say fashion to football requires the services of content creators to continue being relevant and maintain the revenue sources they generate from their online brands.

Data analytics/information visualization

This skill though initially a little bit specialized is gradually becoming mainstream. This is due to the gazillions of bytes of data that are relentlessly being generated in the digital world. According to Forbes, the whole world generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day at our current pace. All businesses operating in the digital space have a huge trove of data that mostly goes unused because of the inability to make sense of the data generated. This is where data analytics skills come in handy to be able to make sense of all the available data. For this reason, new analytics software applications have been created solely to assist in data analytics. The Microsoft suite called Power Platform is one such set of applications that provides support for data analytics professionals; PowerBI comes in handy in deriving insights from datasets by helping to create data dashboards on the fly. Another suite of software for such purposes is Tableau which is produced by another provider. In all, Microsoft Excel is proving to be limited in handling a large amount of data that needs to be analyzed nowadays.

Project or product management/online collaboration

Remote working and virtual office space are trends that have come to stay. One digital skill important for online collaboration is the knowledge of popular tools for such collaborations to take place within teams spread out across the world. New applications are becoming popular in this regard. One such application is Slack which allows full collaboration between remote team members. Projects are also managed online in an agile manner using tools like Trello. These are just some examples of generic collaboration tools being used in the contemporary digital space. Of course, there are also industry-specific digital tools that are developed for professionals in their respective fields to allow online collaboration to become the norm. These digital tools mainly support managing projects in an agile manner as a way of improving speed and efficiency of execution.

Overall, digital skills encompass all the competencies that enable individuals to skillfully handle all the needs of the current digital world in which we live where we need to use digital devices, communication applications, and networks to access and manage information. At the base of all these skills is the need to know how to use a computer in all its various forms. Computer literacy is therefore a necessity before a user can acquire digital skills.

The author is a Telecommunications Engineer, AI Specialist (Member, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana).

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