According to UNESCO, “literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed, and written materials associated with varying contexts." However, there is no such consensus or clarity around a definition for digital literacy. Without such a global or uniform definition, it is difficult for the world to address digital inclusion and measure progress. Imagine the impact if the United Nations, the IEEE, or a similar body were to support a comprehensive framework for digital skills and intelligence and endorse a global standard for a definition of digital literacy and skills. This could aid in achieving a measurement and reporting methodology while enabling individuals, organizations, and nation states to track their progress over time, while proving the necessary building blocks for individuals in the Global South to gain the necessary skills for the future of work and the 21st century economy. While 50% of the world is technically connected to the internet, how many are making meaningful use of its power? Similarly, how many truly have the digital skills necessary to transition from consumers of technology into creators, makers, and doers empowered by technology? The UN sustainable development goals repeatedly underline the importance of technology and inclusion as enablers of development and economic growth. The pairing is essential – unless concrete efforts are made to give everyone access to the right skills, digital tools risk being a force for inequality. Without this foundation, there cannot be true inclusion, an especially dire challenge for forgotten stakeholders.
Melissa Sassi is a Startup Program Manager at IBM focused on IBM's LinuxONE product. In her role at IBM, Melissa partners with early stage startups and the venture capital community to evangelize IBM Z and LinuxONE with a focus on key enablers such as blockchain and fintech. Prior to joining IBM, Melissa spent several years at Microsoft in Microsoft's Airband Initiative. Melissa is Co-Chair of IEEE's Digital skills Working group within IEEE's Internet Inclusion Initiative. She is the Founder & CEO of MentorNations, a youth-led digital literacy movement, aimed at transforming the lives of the underserved via access, skills, and utilization of technology. Melissa holds two master's degrees in supply chain and finance and is working toward her PhD in international business at Northcentral University. Her research focus is the digital inclusion of indigenous communities.