You must be hearing the term ‘digital skills’ a lot these days, right? It should not come as a surprise though – we are living in a digital age. What are digital skills anyways? These are skills that enable one to collect, manipulate, and share data or information using digital devices. Digital devices broadly refer to desktop and smart mobile devices. Ideally, there are 5 things you should be able to do to fit into this digital age. You should be able to communicate, handle information, transact, solve problems, and protect yourself online. What then are the ways to improve digital skills of the future?

Digital Skills Of The Future

Let me just do a rundown of some of the top digital skills you must consider. These are digital skills that are highly sought after right now. They are again digital skills whose demand will continue to rise moving forward. These are Data Sciences, Data Analytics, Digital Marketing, Mobile Apps Development, Software Development, Web Development, and Social Media Management, amongst others.

I recent study I saw titled the Gartner CIO and Technology Executive Survey revealed some interesting insights. The study was meant to establish technology investment plans for many top global enterprises. Cyber or Information Security and Business Intelligence (or Data Analytics) were the top 2.

They are the top 2 in terms of areas generally receiving increasing investment. I was thrilled to see this because I am currently studying Data Analytics. Here is how we can improve the digital skills of the future:

Online Learning

This is an area that we must take more seriously. We now have platforms to pursue digital skills-related disciplines – all online. I am a huge proponent and practical example of this. Since last year I have done about 7 certified online courses in the area of digital skills. I have done Digital Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Virtual Assistance, Digital Journalism, Soft Skills, and currently, Public Speaking, and Data Analytics. As much as all these have been and are expanding my digital skills, there is something else this all does.

I have been and still pursue all these programs online. This means I get to use many digital tools and resources in the process. I get to be on the internet, I get to be on social media, and I get to use my laptop and smartphones. For example, last night I did a Data Analytics group project assignment with coursemates in Nigeria. We did so using video conferencing via Telegram. In doing so, I enhance my skills in using these digital components. So online learning is something that will go a long way in improving the digital skills of the future.

Increasing Uptake Of Digital Technologies

Building from the previous talking point we can expand further. Since using digital tools and resources helps then increasing their uptake is essential. This has to be done across the board; from the individual level to homes, schools, workplaces, and so on.

A good starting point is for learning institutions to move towards blended learning. Blended entails the use of both online learning approaches and traditional in-person classes. This will steadily increase the uptake of digital technologies. This also applies to businesses and startups – the focus must be more on becoming digital.

I still shake my head when I visit business outlets or institutions and you still see data being entered manually into exercise books. I have seen this even in police stations or government offices. We need to shift more towards using digital technologies. Instead of using physical books in your shop or outlet, why not at least start by using an Excel spreadsheet? We can always start small and gradually step up.

Private Sector Investments

The private sector can play a huge role by investing in digital technologies. I know of many Zimbabwean startups or smart minds with cutting edge ideas. I am referring to the kind of ideas that can revolutionize the digital space in Zimbabwe. Most of them usually lack adequate funding or support structures for their efforts. The private sector can step up by investing in such ideas. They can bankroll the setting up of incubator and accelerator programmes. They can source and donate digital tools and resources to schools, institutions, and the like. Even with the limited internet infrastructure in Zimbabwe, they can significantly get involved in that.

For this, to work there is a need for friendly governmental policies. In Zimbabwe, there are generally several pro-digitization policies. Thus there is a relatively enabling environment for those willing to push digital tech uptake in Zimbabwe. More still needs to be done though especially in terms of internet infrastructure development. The digital divide in Zimbabwe is still too high. Roughly 48 per cent of the country has no internet-enabled mobile phones. For as long as that number is that high we will not be able to roll out widespread digital initiatives. We still have to largely resort to USSD options to cater for the offline demographic. All in all, it will all need a collaborative effort from all of us – individuals, homes, institutions, private sector, government, and so on.