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A Year in Digital Skills: Look Back at 2016

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With the end of the year fast approaching, we’re continuing our annual tradition with a look back at the key events in digital skills from a very busy year.

2016 got off to a busy start, with a flurry of activity around the development of the EU’s new skills initiative, online safety, and the dangers of poor self-assessment of digital skills.

In January, we called for digital skills to have a place at the heart of the skills initiative that was being prepared by the European Commission. We argued that, with high unemployment and fragile growth, digital skills were vital for Europe’s economic future. In a post on our blog, we explored the risks of poor digital skills, and the current state of ICT competences across Europe.

Read more in our blog post: Digital Skills Should Be at The Heart of the European Skills Initiative

Raising the issue of digital skills in the Americas, ICDL Americas signed an agreement in March with the Association of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean to promote digital skills in the region and to strengthen skills for higher education and the workplace.

Find out more in our news article: Agreement Signed Between ICDL Americas and the Association of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean for Integration

In April, we published our position paper, titled, ‘Perception and Reality’. The paper brought together the results of research conducted by five ECDL National Operators in Europe, arguing that people are poor judges of their own levels of digital skills. The studies asked participants to rate their skill levels, then tested them on their actual skill levels. Participants consistently overestimated their abilities.

Read more in our position paper: Perception and Reality – Measuring Digital Skills in Europe

In late spring each year, we hold our annual ECDL Foundation Forum, bringing together ECDL National Operators and partners from around the world. A highlight of Forum is the Best Practice Awards, recognising excellence in implementing the ECDL and ICDL programmes. This year, as every year, it was difficult for delegates to Forum to pick out the winning entries.

Read more in our blog post: ECDL / ICDL Best Practice Awards 2016

We ended our very busy Spring with the announcement that the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research & Innovation had become an ECDL Accredited Test Centre. They will use ECDL to boost digital skills and improve workplace productivity.

Read more in our news item: ECDL Adopted by European Commission Directorate-General for Research & Innovation

While many headed off for their summer holidays, there was still plenty of activity on digital skills, with an ambitious initiative from the EU on skills.

June saw the EU unveil its New Skills Agenda for Europe, featuring measures aimed at boosting literacy, numeracy and digital skills. The Agenda, significantly, included digital skills alongside the more traditional literacy and numeracy as being essential for boosting the European economy and helping countries in Europe to be more competitive internationally.

Read more in our blog post: New Skills Agenda for Europe Could Bring Digital Skills to Millions

ICDL Arabia was also busy in June, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the organising committee of the ‘Child Safety Campaign’ to raise awareness of safe, effective and responsible use of the internet.

Read more in our news article: New Agreement Signed to Promote Safe & Effective Use of Internet Among Children in UAE

We also took the opportunity to raise the importance of strong digital skills in the classroom, featuring a report by the OECD that found that using technology in the classroom does not always lead to a better quality of education or higher achievements by students. Our blog post argued that teachers need to be equipped with the right skills to confidently and effectively use ICT in the classroom.

Read more in our blog post: Digital Skills Need to be Addressed in the Classroom

Meanwhile, the President of India launched 15 International Skills Centres across India at the ‘One Year Anniversary Ceremony’ for Skill India. Two ICDL modules have been selected as digital literacy standards for candidates enrolled on programmes at the centres, and the announcement follows ICDL Asia’s signing of an agreement with the India National Skill Development Corporation to certify 1 million Indian workers over the next five years.

Read more in our news item: President of India Launches 15 International Skills Centres to Train Future Migrant Workforce

Traditionally, Autumn heralds the start of a jam-packed few months, with schools starting the new term, and workers coming back from holidays. This year was no different. We produced a brochure on qualifications frameworks, published a position paper on IT Security, launched a brand new module on digital marketing, and rounded things off by presenting ECDL certificates to the first cohort of successful candidates at the European Commission’s DG Research & Innovation.

In September, we released a brochure to demystify qualifications frameworks, and how ECDL fits into different regional and national frameworks around the world, highlighting that, far from being technical and abstract, qualifications frameworks can bring very real benefits to individuals, organisations and governments.

Read more on our website: ECDL and Qualifications Frameworks Worldwide

October was European Cyber Security Month, dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of online security. ECDL Foundation’s new IT Security position paper was released early in the month, setting out our argument that technological solutions are not enough on their own; skills are the key to computer security.

Read more on our website: IT Security Skills: Protecting Your Children, Your Private Life, And Your Business

We also launched our brand new Digital Marketing module during October, with a launch event in Milan, Italy. The module, which is being rolled out in a number of countries around the world, covers the essential skills that entrepreneurs, students and workers in the public and private sectors need to be able to engage with people and market their products or services through digital tools like social media advertising and email marketing.

Read more in our blog posts: Digital Marketing Skills Could Open Doors to Opportunities You Never Knew Existed and6 Tips for Better Digital Marketing

ECDL Switzerland celebrated the milestone of 250,000 candidates, with a ceremony in Lucerne to register Sonia Alfonso for ECDL. 16,000 candidates take ECDL certification tests in Switzerland and Liechtenstein each year.

Read more in our news item: 250,000th ECDL Candidate Registered in Switzerland

The first cohort of candidates from the European Commission’s DG Research & Innovation received their ECDL certificates in October, in the presence of Damien O’Sullivan, CEO of ECDL Foundation and Patrick Child, Deputy Director General of the DG Research & Innovation. Throughout the project with the European Commission, we will be helping to improve the skills of 200 members of staff.

Read more in our news article: European Commission Staff Receive ECDL Certification

The year might be coming to a close, but we’re certainly not slowing down our work to raise digital skill levels around the world. So far this winter, we have seen the first European Vocational Skills Week, and the launch of the new Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition.

While October was a very busy month in Europe, there was still plenty going on elsewhere. In Nairobi, Kenya, ICDL Africa held its 3rd annual Accredited Test Centre Forum on 26 October, bringing together test centres from Kenya and wider East Africa. ICDL Foundation CEO, Damien O’Sullivan attended, as did Viola Dondo, Executive Director of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe.

Read more in our news item: ICDL Africa Hosts 3rd Annual ATC Forum in Kenya

From 5 to 9 December, the first annual European Vocational Skills Week put the spotlight on the importance of vocational education and training (VET). As a vocational qualification, ECDL has been used in VET extensively, and we picked out some particularly interesting examples, including teacher training in Austria, preparing students for the workplace in the UK, recognition by a major VET organisation in Germany, and the identification of ECDL as a ‘promising practice in TVET’ by UNESCO in Romania.

Find out more on our website: European Vocational Skills Week

Rounding off the year, we attended the launch of the new Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition in Brussels, which is one of the ten initiatives of the New Skills Agenda announced in June. The new coalition will carry on the work of promoting digital skills in Europe, that was begun by the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs. As part of its commitment to the coalition, ECDL Foundation has pledged that by the end of 2018, 2 million digital skills assessments leading to ECDL certification will be taken in the EU.

Find out more in our news article: Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Launched in Brussels

It has certainly been a very busy year, and next year is sure to be no different. We have exciting new modules to launch, thousands of candidates to certify, and plenty more besides that.

Season’s greetings and happy new year from everyone at ECDL Foundation!

Image credits: Leaf icon created by Arthur Shlain and flower icon created by Edward Boatman, both on Noun Project.