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23
Jun 2014

TRADITIONALLY, “the word "literacy" is used to refer to the ability to read and write. Today, it is often used to refer to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication. The opposite (or antonym) to literacy is illiteracy, the inability to read or write.

 The-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.

 Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to. Participate fully in the wider society", 

Today, global literacy statistics paint a gloomy picture, with one in every five people on the planet being illiterate, with either no or just basic reading skills, two. Thirds of this population are said to be women.

According to UNESCO, ~ those who cannot read and write are "destined to 'be on the social and economic margins of our world" _ This explains why for the past 40_ years, it has set aside September 8 as the International Literacy pay to highlight the challenges of illiteracy, poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing .population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development; peace and democracy.

With the advent of the information revolution, the -meaning of literacy has changed and has assumed new meanings. We've seen a change-in the concept from "literacy" to concepts such as information Literacy, multimedia literacy; and digital - i literacy, a term generally I used to refer to an, individual's ability to function effectively in a digital environment. It has been defined as the ability to use digital technology, communications tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information

Gilster and his colleague regardit.as a special kind of mindset that enables users to perform intuitively in digital environments and to easily and effectively access the wide range of knowledge embedded in these environments.

Eshet-Alkalai views the term as a multidimensional construct comprising five types’ of-literacy skills: (a) photo-visual literacy; (b) re production literacy; (c) information literacy; (d) branching literacy; and (e) socio- emotional literacy. 

Digital literacy seeks to assess the computer literacy level of people and the extent to which the computer skills acquired could be used in addressing fundamental challenges of daily living. 

Digital literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional forms of literacy by marrying of the two terms digital and literacy; however, it goes beyond the combination of two terms by exploring a wide variety of topics, including how people find, use, summarize, evaluate, create, and communicate information while using digital technologies. 

Experts in the field consider it as a key aspect of contemporary citizenship to enable individuals to fully participate in the digital economy, the democratic process, and the network society.

 Concepts such as "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" have emerged out of this trend. Marc Prensky who coined the terms regard a digital native as one who was born into the digital age whereas a digital immigrant refers to one who adopts technology later in life. 

These terms pined by Prensky have helped in expanding the literature on digital literacy.

For example, a digital immigrant adapts to technology and communicates with technology differently than digital natives who grow up with these tools. This has, implications on how the two categories adapt to technology. Prensky alludes to this when he rent arks that today's students are "a population that speaks' an entirely new language than the people who educate them" 

A similar analogy is made by Dave White from the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford who uses the terms "digital visitors" and "digital residents". In his words, while digital visitors leave no online social trace, residents. Live a portion of their lives online. These are not two separate. Categories of people but rather a description of a continuum of but, it has generally been   Observed that many individuals demonstrate both visitor and residential behaviours in different contexts. 

Today, digital literacy is increasingly becoming synonymous with computer and Internet knowledge. This medium has provided a new meaning to digital literacy. Computers and access to Internet connectivity provide information that can quickly be transmitted and shared. 

The use of such modem day tools have changed many facets of the human life, from education, health care, industry, economy, politics, governance, to entertainment. This technological revolution brought about by the use "of computers and other forms of information systems has entered a new and dynamic phase that is now beginning to alter our institutions in ways that are unprecedented in the history of humanity. 

Today, we speak of a knowledge economy, a digital economy, knowledge workers, and knowledge societies. Given these developments) it will be difficult without digital literacy skills to function in today's world. 

And, the wide use of social media tools such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others has led to global participation in-literacy. The use of such tools continues to offer significant opportunities for overcoming challenges with digital literacy. 

Countries have benefited from this trend as well. We' know that countries such as, India, China; Estonia, The Philippines, and others are widely regarded as world leaders in this sector. These countries have become significantly richer and moved to a new level of economic success. 

That is because, for the last two ‘decades or so, these countries have transformed their core institutions through the use of ICT, rewarded innovation, and encouraged collaboration,' research and development. 

We should make every effort to overcoming the challenges posed by the inability to make use of’ digital resources in today’s world. Digital and other similar 'Literacies' are key concepts relating to knowledge, Skills, and attitudes, at various levels, in dealing with information in varied formats and diverse situations.

Source: Ghanaian Times