15 November 2011
"Enterprise Ireland is committed to supporting the ECDL / ICDL programme1, working together with ICDL South Africa to replicate the success achieved worldwide."
This was the sentiment affirmed by Ireland's Minister of State for Trade and Development, Jan O'Sullivan, at a meeting with ICDL South Africa on 9 November. The two-hour long session, attended by Irish Ambassador Brendan McMahon and various Irish state officials, as well as representatives of Enterprise Ireland, the Irish trade and technology agency, saw Minister O'Sullivan wholeheartedly commend the work being done by ICDL South Africa.
The meeting was also attended by key representatives from the City of Cape Town, Parliament, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Learning Resource Management Group (LRMG), the University of the Western Cape, and Telkom.
Jenny van Niekerk, CEO of ICDL South Africa, says that an endorsement of this magnitude goes a long way to enhancing the organisation’s standing. With over 11 million candidates in 148 countries, the success of the ECDL / ICDL programme is far-reaching, and its success in Ireland has literally changed lives.
After a severe economic downturn in Ireland in 2009/10, the unemployment level rose to 299,000 people, many of whom had poor digital literacy skills. FÁS, the Irish National Training and Employment Authority, the state agency responsible for employment and skills, started offering ECDL training due to the certification's ability to address the digital literacy shortcomings of the unemployed. The knock-on effect was enormous, with the need to establish additional training centres, leading to significant job creation. In 2010, a total of 12,000 unemployed people were trained, via FÁS’s private test centres, and through e-Learning. Integrity, quality, relevance, programme composition, and industry recognition are some of the ECDL attributes that contributed to this success.
Globally, ICDL is already seen as the benchmark in terms of digital literacy, and speaking about ICDL in South Africa, the Minister said: "The strong message I want to get across here is that ECDL / ICDL is a very important tool, very well developed, very effective and accessible, and I believe it can make a real difference to South African society, so it's a very strong endorsement here this afternoon." CEO of ICDL South Africa, Ms. Van Niekerk, addressed this statement by saying: "For someone of the Minister's stature to take time during her trade mission to meet with ICDL South Africa is a huge honour and a clear testament to our success."
The Minister went on to state that if ICDL can become as strong a brand as ECDL is in Ireland, it could make a real difference to the communities in South Africa, and Ms. Van Niekerk agreed. "The Minister's endorsement was heartfelt and passionate, and means a lot to our organisation. As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on endorsements such as these as opposed to marketing campaigns, which we simply do not have the budgets for."
"What the Minister did was encourage partnerships, which for us means growth and ultimately economic success," says Van Niekerk. ICDL South Africa believes that ICT skills and certification directly impact the ability of people and organisations to engage effectively in society and participate in the economy.
The Minister pledged the support of Enterprise Ireland, which will open a permanent office in Johannesburg in January, as well as the support of the Irish government, and is fully committed to supporting the ICDL programme in South Africa.
Among the courseware providers, Skillsoft (an international e-Learning company) has partnered with ICDL South Africa to deliver an e-Learning package. Their local representative, Learning Resource Management Group, is committed to growing and developing the certification in Africa.
Since 1999, ICDL South Africa has successfully trained over 300,000 candidates in over 400 registered testing facilities, and its programmes have become the national standard for digital literacy.
 The International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) programme is referred to as the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) within Europe. The ECDL / ICDL programme is an initiative of ECDL Foundation. For more information, visit www.ecdl.org