An integrated public policy initiative to enhance digital competences
The world we live increasingly relies on digital technologies, so it is important that everyone has the competences to deal with this new reality. The new practices tend to be based online, and users normally interact with them through electronic devices. In the case of the active population, learning, productivity and competitiveness are also increasingly dependent on digital factors, meaning that there is a growing need for digital competences in many different professions.
Even though Portugal is close to the European median in terms of digital competences (15th in the DESI 2017 Index, Digital Economy and Society Index of the European Commission; Figure 1), it needs to reinforce basic Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) competences, especially in terms of human capital and internet usage levels, preventing them to stay at a worrying threshold. This is also true for specialists, who need to be able to make the most of the growing availability of jobs in the digital market.
To this end, we have a training infrastructure as well as the human potential capable of being (re)qualified to meet the demands of employment opportunities typical of modern societies, such as Portugal. However, this (re)qualification is a demanding task that requires mobilisation and a combination of efforts from different areas of governance and civil society. This is the 21st Government’s purpose with the “National Digital Competences Initiative e.2030, Portugal INCoDe.2030”.
Portugal needs to promote a new set of digital competences with a view to making the most of the opportunities the future will bring, and generating renewed confidence in the new generations.
These competences, which have been planned up to 2030, are part of exercising full citizenship. A country with digitally proficient citizens is also a country where more people are included, involved, and able to deal with the society they are part of.
Digital competences are also intrinsically linked to employability - increasing digitalisation in the labour market requires new competences. A more skilled active population generates more new jobs, as well as innovative markets and products, generating more competitive and robust economic activities.
At the same time, the country itself must be an active agent in the global effort to produce new scientific computing knowledge and develop the capacity to manage and use large amounts of information. This will help to ensure a better position in Europe and the world. We cannot wait to find out what the new technologies will be; we have to create them and work with them.
Creating a more resilient society involves developing new competences, particularly digital ones, which are constantly changing and evolving; at the same time, it involves preparing people for growing uncertainty, recognising that there are differences that will require unique preparation models.
It is in this context that the Portugal INCoDe.2030 initiative includes a public policy integrated action that aims to stimulate and guarantee the development of competences as tools to help prepare the new generations for the “unknown”, investing increasingly in new knowledge and in the capacity to create new jobs - more qualified and better paid - encouraging entrepreneurship in young people.
What are digital competences?
The Portugal INCoDe.2030 initiative addresses the concept of digital competences in a broad manner. It includes the notion of digital literacy (i.e. the ability to access digital media and ICTs, understand and critically assess contents, and communicate effectively), as well as the production of new knowledge through research, which involves processing information, and communicating, interacting with and producing digital content.
The concept of digital competences is also linked to the use of digital technologies to design new solutions for different types of problems, the integration of interdisciplinary knowledge and data analysis, intensive use of artificial intelligence, the use of advanced instrumentation and communication networks and mobile systems, and the development and programming of cyber-physical systems. This involves hardware and software and extends the concept of ICT to electronics, automation and robotics1.
Competences can be developed to different levels of depth and proficiency in each of these areas, depending on the level of qualification and set goals. These different levels are reflected in the type of measures that will be promoted in an inclusive and comprehensive way for the whole of society.
1 This broader concept of ICT is often referred to as which is the Portuguese acronym to Information, Communication and Electronics Technology. However, the established English term is “ICT”, which we will use.