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    Thursday 11 May 2017

    Workplace Ethics #6 Tech Literacy

    I first touched a computer at the age of 19 years and its not funny more so when I have a three-year-old niece who can effectively navigate a smart phone including passwords if given access. I was thrilled when my sister registered me for computer classes, I could hardly wait to get a grip of this new technology. The excitement could be equated to the excitement of boarding a plane for the very first time. If you have boarded one more so from an African background, then you know what I mean.

    Learning computer was a gateway into my journey of lifelong learning. I have never looked back since that turning moment. I was taught basic Microsoft word and excel then decided to explore more programs on my own. I taught myself Publisher, Paint, PowerPoint and a bit of Corel. Within a year of learning computer I was not only able to type and enter data, I could also design business cards, fliers and brochures using program templates. 

    When I got my first formal job, I was considered the best candidate because of my additional computer skills that were a value addition for the organization. I later learnt they were struggling with news letter writing and that was a role I could do besides my official assignments. This encouraged me to continue learning and becoming better.

    Through my career, I have had the opportunity to work with different university interns at different organizations and I am always shocked at their level of computer illiteracy (no offense, not all of them). I can hardly comprehend how one goes through the university without basic computer skills?!

    Literacy goes beyond the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic and includes computer and other technology-related skills in the context of the workplace. Computer literacy refers to the ability to use computer programs in an effective manner. Computer skills have become increasingly important as companies have started to depend upon computerized technology to get work done. 

    There's no doubt technology is changing the world in which we live. New developments are creating jobs, making others obsolete and transforming the nation's higher education system. But there's still a disparity between workforce demands and worker preparation, and unless policymakers make moves to bridge the gap, young adults could face a harsh future.

    Computing and information technologies have fundamentally changed the business environment. Once seen as a specialized area supported by workers with dedicated skill sets, information technology (IT) has become pervasive within the organization. IT now impacts all disciplines, industries and career fields, and is the driving force behind the ‘New Economy’. Consequently, there is an expectation that today’s college graduate be proficient in using computing technologies and applications, regardless of the graduate's field of study. Even if you do manual labor, such a construction or food service job, you may need to use a computer to conduct research on industry or company trends, regulations or news; run a cash register or complete training before starting work.

    In the computer training classes, we often train youth who have done computer studies in their schools as a module but can’t even find the power button leave alone navigate the computer programs. There is a huge gap in the education system and until it is addresses, we must take individual initiative to ensure that we are tech literate and that our youth are well prepared for the job market.

    Young people grow up surrounded by technology but today, too many have no idea how it all works - and don't fully appreciate how it shapes their future. Young people may look like savvy digital natives, but their knowledge is only screen-deep. They are too often passive consumers, not active creators. This is the tech literacy paradox.

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