ABET or AET facilitates digital literacy, a critically important skill in this digitally connected era. Citizens use this proficiency to, among others, communicate; connect; find employment opportunities; and access information that they can use to improve their lives.
Literacy in the 21st century is more than just the ability to read. This is despite the direct correlation between reading and digital literacy.
Digital technologies have revolutionised the written word. Prior to these technologies, people referred to printed information to gain knowledge, motivating the need to learn to read for meaning. Yet, access to books and other types of printed information was still limited to a few. This is considering the higher costs involved in printing and disseminating information in this manner which were passed onto the consumer.
However, digital technologies have enabled all people with the required skills and technologies to obtain knowledge. Equipped with digital literacy skills and a mobile phone or other electronic device, anyone can be a journalist or publisher. There is, thus, an abundance of information available online to help shape opinions and thoughts. People are now able to find answers to most or all of their questions on search engines. Google, alone, processes more than 99 000 searches every second.
However, we have lost the “gatekeepers”. These were the trained publishers, editors, sub-editors and journalists who were responsible for ensuring that their information was factually correct. Only then would they disseminate it to the masses. This is especially considering the risk of legal action taken against media organisations or professionals for defamation and factually incorrect assumptions. It was also the morally correct thing to do.
Therefore, literacy today entails an ability to construct credible and validate information on online platforms. Readers must now be able to navigate through ambiguity and triangulate and validate viewpoints.
ABET lays foundations
ABET or AET lays the foundations upon which to develop digital literacy.
Considering the speed at which information is posted and spread, reading has also become significantly more challenging in this era. For example, more than 6million blog posts are published every day across 1,9billion global websites. As of 2022, there are about 6 000 posts on X every second. Each minute, there are more than 3million “likes” on Facebook. Meanwhile, at least 95million photos are posted on Instagram every day. This is not to mention the vast information also shared on a host of other social media platforms, such as Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
However, not all of this information is of a high standard. In this digital age, speed of dissemination of information surpasses the need for it to be thoroughly inspected for factual accuracy. Even professional media houses have fallen into this trap as they struggle to remain relevant in this new information era. This has contributed to distrust in traditional media across the globe over the years. In 2019, Ipsos undertook a study into the levels of trust in global media. Its findings noted that about a third of people worldwide no longer found newspapers and magazines reliable than they did in 2014. Refer to https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/publication/documents/2019-08/ipsos_global_advisor_-_trust_in_the_media.pdf.
This has also contributed to the prevalence of “fake news”, misinformation and “post truth”. The rapid spread of this information is facilitated by social media platforms. They are designed to channel the flow of likeminded people towards each other. In this way, “echo chambers” are created. They reinforce thoughts and opinions as opposed to challenging them. This, in turn, fuels confirmation bias.
There is usually an increase in fake news ahead of important elections.
ABET is a priority
Considering high levels of illiteracy among adults in South Africa, ABET or AET is a priority. This is the only way that these citizens can gain the literacy and numeracy skills that they need to function effectively in this modern era. The Department of higher Education and Training concurs. “Illiteracy has no room in a modern society since we live in the age of technology and information,” it notes in a report. In response, the department intends extending access to state ABET programmes. Community education and training colleges will be resourced to increase AET with a specific focus on also developing digital literacy skills. Refer to Fact Sheet – Adult Illiteracy in South Africa – March 2023.pdf (dhet.gov.za).
Many enterprising companies have long adopted this approach in their skills development programmes. One company in particular is revolutionising skills development in the information communications technology (ICT) sector. It was nominated for Triple E Training’s prestigious Passionate About People Award for 2023. This is considering the impact that its training is having on high youth unemployment.
Youth are recruited from communities and enrolled in ABET programmes to equip them with literacy and numeracy skills. They also receive instruction in computer literacy to better prepare them for a vibrant career in the ICT industry.
Enterprising individuals are employed to work in the company’s repair centre. They use their new-found numeracy skills to ensure that every imported microchip and processing board are of the correct specification. In doing so, they also learn more about the company’s technology. This practical training is complemented by theoretical instruction. Upon completion of the bridging course, these individuals receive a certificate of competency in quality control and assessment. They are then ready to undergo training in the actual repair of the company’s products. The most industrious learners are also enrolled in Technikons to further hone their ICT and communication skills.
ABET will facilitate digital transition
ABET or AET will help to facilitate South Africa’s digital transition considering its focus on imparting foundational literacy skills.
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 e-readiness Index, South Africa has not made much progress in developing digital literacy skills. The country was ranked 95th position in terms of the skills needed to seamlessly transition into a fully digitally connected society. The skills levels reported refer to those that reside within the country and are measured as a proxy. Information such as the number of years of schooling; secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio; and the quality of education, are included. Refer to WEF_GITR_Chapter1.1_2016.pdf (weforum.org).
Many countries have already made significant progress in terms of developing and adopting digital skills frameworks. This is to guide the discourse and practice regarding digital skills development; assessment; and intervention design. These provide a shared understanding of the concept of digital skills. This can form the basis for agreement on the certification and evaluation of digital skills development programmes. It also facilitates the creation of instruments to assess the actual digital skills levels of individuals. Moreover, it helps to formulate the indices to measure progress made by the collective effort. It also guides change initiatives.
South Africa lagged behind other countries in terms of developing such a framework. It was only until more recently that the Digital Skills Framework One (DSFOne) was finalised. Refer to Implementation Programme for the National Digital and Future Skills Strategy of South Africa – Decent Jobs for Youth (www.gov.za).
DSFOne provides a synoptic view of digital skills. This facilitates the understanding that “digital skills today are pervasive in all areas of work, learning and life.” It also provides impetus to and stimulates the national discourse around national and locally relevant digital skills frameworks.
ABET supports DSF One
ABET or AET supports DSFOne’s focus on developing digital literacy or “e-literacy”. These are the very basic level of e-skills that can lead to meaningful use in life, work and learning.
Digital literacy has various tiers. The first includes learning how to stay safe online by practicing “defensive internet use” and understanding what happens with our personal data. People who have digital literacy skills at this level know how to set and create strong passwords to protect their digital assets. They can also determine what is and not safe to click on or visit online.
The second tier includes the knowledge needed to apply online etiquette in social spaces and understanding how to navigate between multiple streaming services. Importantly, it also focuses on the ability to analyse news content and its sources. Critical thinking is a vitally important skill in a world inundated with misinformation; deep fakes; and other ways to manipulate people online.
The third tier involves improved knowledge of phishing, scams and malware. This is important considering that many South Africans continue to fall victim to these crimes. Interpol’s cyberthreat assessment report found that South Africa led the way in all categories of cyberattacks. These ranged from digital extortion and online scams to business email compromise attacks. Refer to INTERPOL report identifies top cyberthreats in Africa. At particular risk are citizens with low digital literacy. They remain prime targets for these criminals.
ABET provides access to education
ABET or AET provides access to a quality education that so many South Africans do not have.
The situation deprives citizens of obtaining foundational literacy and numeracy skills that they need to function effectively. It traps them in poverty, fuelling rising inequality.
Indeed, literacy is the foundation of digital literacy. However, digital literacy also provides access to a quality education. This includes the literacy skills that people need to excel in all aspects of life.
According to research by Afrika Tikkun Foundation, literacy levels are higher in households with access to the internet and a mobile device. In the absence of books, mobile devices are the only source of any literature for many homes. However, “in a country such as South Africa, access to these devices is not evenly distributed,” notes the report. “Inequality has locked millions out of the fourth industrial revolution.” Refer to Homepage – Afrika Tikkun ZA.
According to a report by DataPortal, over a quarter of South Africans do not have access to the internet.
At the start of 2023, South Africa had 43,48million internet users. This is an internet penetration rate of only 72%. Meanwhile, there were 25,80million people using various social media platforms to communicate. This is only 42,9% of the total population.
Meanwhile, the Department of Basic Education’s Action Plan to 2024 report also highlights that technology-enhanced learning has not advanced in South Africa. Many public-school learners are still restricted to printed textbooks or radio or television broadcasts for learning. This has resulted in a general lack of digital literacy among learners. Even when there is digital literacy, there is no or limited access to the necessary tools to deploy them. Refer to Microsoft Word – Sector plan 2019 – 2020 06 25.docx (education.gov.za).
Leading ABET providers
Digital technologies enabled leading ABET or AET providers to quickly adapt to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. These facilitated remote adult literacy training when restrictions were placed on the movement of people to contain the spread of the virus. Enterprising companies were adamant that their adult literacy and numeracy training programmes continue without interruption during this period. Their ABET or AET providers were expected to adapt quickly and efficiently to their needs. This is considering the impact of interruptions on skills development programmes and the morale of learners.
Some universities and schools were also able to adjust swiftly. However, there were many learners who were not as fortunate as their learning institutions did not have access to the internet or technologies.
Digital technologies and connectivity can improve access to education in the country.
They transform classrooms by providing teachers with new and innovative instruction tools and enable them to better track learner progress. Importantly, they overcome challenges such as remote geographical locations and disruptive events, such as civil unrest and natural disasters.
They also bridge inequalities such as access to knowledge.
However, many public schools grapple with a host of other challenges that prevent them from harnessing the power of “e-education”. This includes the high cost of internet access; no or sporadic connectivity; and a perceived lack of interest in and ability to use these technologies. One expert refers to the introduction of technologies at places of learning without the support needed to operate them effectively as “box dropping”. Rather, he says that educators and learners need enablement, cooperation and support to truly harness the many benefits of digital technology. We must define technology’s purpose in the classroom. What is it meant to do? How should it work?
ABET provider of choice
Triple E Training is your ABET or AET solutions provider of choice.
Our quality adult literacy and numeracy training equip South Africans with the skills that they need to embark on a lifelong learning journey. This includes honing and enhancing their digital literacy skills that are also so important in modern workplaces. They will continue to grow in prominence. This is especially as local industry prepares to undergo its Fourth Industrial Revolution. As the DHET notes, there is no place for illiteracy in this country especially now as it navigates the digital age. Functionally illiterate adults will be left behind. This will aggravate high unemployment, poverty and inequality.
It was the well-known computer scientist, Alan Kay who said “computer literacy is the contact with the activity of computing deep enough. This is to make the computational equivalent of reading and writing fluent and enjoyable. As in all the arts, a romance with the material must be well under way. If we value the lifelong learning of the arts and letters as the springboard for personal and societal growth, should any less effort be made to make computing a part of our lives.”
Learn more about Triple E Training and our approach to adult literacy and numeracy training. www.eee.co.za