Advancing Digital Literacy A Board Director Learning Imperative

I have written a few blogs recently on the digital literacy gaps in our businesses and society at large, as we continue to see Artificial Intelligence solutions in all sectors hitting our global markets.

Digital literacy has become indispensable for every global citizen, whether to communicate, find employment, receive comprehensive education, or socialize.

Acquiring the right set of digital skills is critical for learning and workforce readiness but also vital to fostering more open, inclusive and secure ways of connecting with one another.

Digital Literacy (DL) is a hot topic in the boardrooms as the cry out Big Q is: how literate are our board directors in terms of their digital skills and AI acumen? That’s one key point, the other is what is Digital Literacy, as it’s still a term in constant evolution and likely will be until the end of time.

Getting a handle on an agreed upon definition that a board or an organization can rally around is an important first step. So here are a few DL points of view, from different international sources, including: UNESCO, the European Union, Ireland and Canada, etc.

UNSECO states there is no one set of agreed definitions for digital literacy which is an interesting point. The Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education has identified over 100 models and frameworks of digital skills, literacy or competencies. See Ireland’s All Aboard Digital Literacy Framework for Higher Education here.

So this may sound like a messy question to answer.

An excellent digital literacy framework is the DigComp developed by the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission. DigComp 2.1 identifies five key components of digital competence: information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety and problem solving, with also 21 related competences and eight proficiency levels.

Doug Belshaw also has eight essential elements of digital literacy—culture, cognitive, constructive, communicative, confident, creative, critical and civic.

even British Columbia in Canada has a framework for Digital Literacy for K-12. This framework, and the competencies in it are categorized by grade level. This still applies well to higher education (simply remove the grade levels – the college student should learn all of these competencies). The BC framework defines: “Digital Literacy is the interest, attitude and ability of individuals to use digital technology and communication tools appropriately to access, manage, integrate, analyze and evaluate information, construct new knowledge, and create and communicate with others.”

An often cited framework for information literacy for higher education is from the Association of Colleges and Research Libraries. See Framework: ACRL. Each of these links below helps to inform the documented framework.

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Information Creation as a Process

Information Has Value

Research as Inquiry

Scholarship as Conversation

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Digital Literacy Relevance to Board Directors

It is useful for reviewing the responsibilities of a Board of Directors, especially those of a publicly traded company. Boards are primarily responsible for looking after the interests of shareholders. They accomplish this by providing insight in three key areas:

  • Strategic direction and advice: As Technology is underpinning all business strategy, it is impossible to provide strategic direction without looking at the technology enablements.
  • Financial oversight: No CTO or CIO will debate how expensive IT and complex SCM solutions are to embed in an organization, and the oversight on these high risk investments require astute technology and business leaders working as partners, and digital literacy is critical for effective communication.
  • risk management: The risks of technology investments are tightly integrated with business strategy and financial management practices.

As Data, AI and CyberSecurity are top of mind digital literacy topics, the imperative to ensure all board directors are recruited with a strong digital literacy foundation is key as the world continues to modernize faster and faster with collective data intelligence.

Where is your board at digital literacy proficiency? How well prepared is your organization?