Digital literacy and ICT skills have become many people’s bread and butter in an interconnected and fast-paced society. Communication and collaboration over distances that happened due to the pandemic proved our need to invest in ICT knowledge and skills, especially students and employees.
Not every child and youth can catch up to the online world. In a report by UNICEF entitled “Children in a Digital World”, around 29% of youth worldwide, or around 346 million youth and children, don’t have access to the Internet or digital facilities. In the Philippines, only 50% of children aged 10 and above know only basic ICT skills, showing that much needs to be improved.
In SOS Children’s Villages Philippines, its program participants struggled with limited to no access to ICT tools and skills. We launched the Digital Village Project in 2017 to address this gap. The Digital Village Project, a collaboration between the IT and Programs Development Departments of SOS Children’s Villages Philippines, aims to improve the ICT capacity, both in infrastructure and skills, of the people in the villages from the children and youth, the mothers, to the co-workers. The project gave everyone a chance to learn computer skills, or refresh them for those who have studied them.
The ICT infrastructure of the villages are being updated with every new upgrade that gets released in the market. Recently, Google Wi-Fi Mesh, the latest mesh wi-fi technology in the market, has been installed in family houses for faster and bigger bandwidth. But this is only one of many future updates needed for the ongoing Digital Village Project.
With technological advancement comes evolving ICT literacy. To improve current digital literacy of the youth, the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) Training Program was implemented to reinforce the current efforts of the Digital Village. The ICDL Training Program aims to teach or refresh the children and youth important topics needed in the digital world such as computer and online essentials, cyber security, and application essentials.
The ICDL Training Program’s first batch consisting of 16 participating youth from all 8 villages started last 2021 and finished synchronous classes last February 2022, though asynchronous classes are still ongoing. According to Advocacy and Youth Engagement Coordinator Dianne Ricafranca, they are aiming to include 40 participants including beneficiaries of the Family Strengthening Program.
ICDL participants can study other modules at their own pace aside from their existing synchronous classes.
“Reinforcement of a relaunched Digital Village will power-up the Digital Skills development of our young people, which is a valued qualification in the employment landscape nowadays.” Ms. Ricafranca stated this as the main benefit youth will get from participating in the ICDL Training Program. Apart from the three main topics mentioned above, the youth can have the opportunity to study other topics like spreadsheets, collaborative tools, and presentation tools, which are crucial tools in most of today’s jobs.
Of course, learning should not stop there. As ICT Manager Richard “Archie” Florentino advises: “Keep on learning.” He encourages the youth to go beyond what they learn in school and in the training program, to develop not just their digital skills but also their character as both aspects would help them when they integrate into society.