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Introducing USAID Digital Literacy Primer for Development Programs

By Wayan Vota on May 25, 2022

usaid digital literacy primer

Countries around the world are experiencing unprecedented digital transformation. As a result, previously disconnected communities are coming online and increasing their reliance on new technologies and skills. However, digital programming must extend beyond access to physical devices and infrastructure to promote equitable access to digital technologies.

We need to ensure that users possess a nuanced set of skills to meaningfully, responsibly, and safely participate in their digital ecosystem. This set of competences, also known as digital literacy, is central to ensuring that the benefits of digital transformation are available to all–especially those from vulnerable or marginalized communities.

USAID Digital Literacy Primer

USAID’s Digital Literacy Primer defines digital literacy in the context of development and discusses sector-specific guidance for incorporating digital literacy into development programming. It provides a shared language and understanding of the components of digital literacy to improve USAID’s programming, understanding, and collaboration on this topic that is critical to effective development programming.

USAID defines digital literacy as the ability to access, manage, understand, integrate, communicate, evaluate, and create information safely and appropriately through digital devices and networked technologies for participation in economic, social, and political life.

Digital literacy encompasses skill sets sometimes referred to as computer literacy, ICT literacy, or media and information literacy. Borrowing from these competences, this definition acknowledges digital literacy’s two pillars: capacity and safety.

  • Capacity refers to the technical knowledge and skills required to use a variety of digital devices and services such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, the internet, messaging and social media services such as WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as audio and visual tools.
  • Safety refers to the skills and awareness required to use digital tools carefully while navigating potential harmsiii and cyber threats successfully . This pillar includes, but is not limited to, strategies for strengthening cyber hygiene and countering mis- and disinformation.

USAID’s Digital Literacy Primer aims to:

  • Improve USAID staff’s understanding of digital literacy;
  • Demonstrate how digital literacy contributes to broader global development goals;
  • Describe how digital literacy can be incorporated into various stages of the USAID program cycle; and
  • Detail ways in which different sectors and practice areas can develop digital literacy through their unique activities.

Digital literacy is a broad topic that encompasses a range of competences from basic literacy and numeracy skills to advanced computing and information processing skills. Sharing a language and an understanding of each of the core competences of digital literacy will improve USAID’s programming, understanding, and collaboration on this topic that is critical to effective digital programming.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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2 Comments to “Introducing USAID Digital Literacy Primer for Development Programs”

  1. Aniekan Ekpenyong says:

    Great idea. Very useful for the African society..


    There are many informal school / private schools established in several informal settlements and poor neighborhoods in Nairobi as well as in the neighboring Machakos County in Kenya.
    We are in the process of Funds raising to acquire the learning devices under our Digital Literacy Programme for informal/private schools project. Is it possible to get funding from your organization to facilitate the pupils enrolled in this schools with the devices.