Original Research - Special Collection: Digital Literacy

Digital literacy: The quest of an inclusive definition

James K. Njenga
Reading & Writing | Vol 9, No 1 | a183 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v9i1.183 | © 2018 James K. Njenga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 November 2017 | Published: 30 August 2018


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Abstract

Forces of globalisation and economic competition enhanced by, among others, the digital technologies, are radically transforming the social context. Digital technologies are characterised by a powerful and pervasive Internet as well as the related information and communication technologies. Globalisation is facilitated by the universally accessible, reliable and inexpensive communication assisted by these digital technologies. However, there is growing and valid scepticism regarding the digitally influenced socio-economic emancipation. This scepticism is mainly driven by a lack of understanding of digital literacy as a holistic process of creating the necessary social, economic and political changes within a given context. The understanding of digital literacy therefore needs to join a number of seemingly divergent views of digital technology when dealing with these technologies’ benefits in socio-economic emancipation. This understanding of digital literacy should therefore be shaped and focused more on understanding how digital literacy impacts the poor and marginalised, especially in looking at the socio-economic welfare of these marginalised sections of the society. This article discusses digital literacy by firstly looking at the shortcomings of the available definitions and approaches and then recommends a socio-economic development-orientated definition. The article brings to the fore the most critical digital literacy issues for socio-economic development. These issues are important; they ensure that digital literacy is not viewed in isolation, but rather in terms of its outcomes and consequences, especially with regard to socio-economic development.

Keywords

digital literacy; socio-economic development; digital technology; poor and marginalized

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