From childhood to later life, the accumulation of knowledge and skills enables people to develop and realise their potential and contribute to a productive society. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced learning to become an online activity, it became clear that digital technologies must be capable of including all relevant users. In recognition of this ongoing need, the European Training Foundation (ETF) says a ‘radical digital inclusion’ mindset is required to ensure human capital development. Through various tools and initiatives, ETF is supporting digital inclusion policies and practices in its partner countries, including the Eastern Partnership region.
The ETF is an EU agency that helps transitioning and developing countries to maximise their human capital potential, through the reform of education, training and labour market systems. To support its partner-countries’ policy makers in considering digital inclusion for education, the ETF released its Digital Education Reform Framework in November 2022. This helps in the design, implementation and monitoring of digital education policies that suit contemporary digital ecosystems. ETF will use the framework in advisory discussions, where the importance of human-centric factors will be highlighted, such as interface design and the user experience.
To let people experience how these human factors can have an impact, the ETF worked with the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation to create the website DigitallyExcluded.org. Visitors to this site can see how language, cognitive, connectivity and visual impairment barriers could prevent potential users from accessing or using digital technologies.
The ETF also contributed to the creation of another tool, SELFIE (Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering the use of Innovative Educational technologies). Free to use, SELFIE helps schools to embed digital technologies into teaching, learning and assessment. The ETF is helping digitally advanced schools in Armenia to use SELFIE so they can provide STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education support to rural schools. This mentorship is part of a national project and is helping to improve online learning and digital inclusion in the country’s regions.
These examples show how ETF is working towards an across-the-board ‘radical’ adoption of digital inclusion. “If we want to only marginally increase digital inclusion it will take a long time and the private sector may take over,” says Fabio Nascimbeni, Human Capital Development Expert with ETF. The concept of radical digital inclusion “is like counting your carbon footprint,” he explains. “When it becomes a habit, it changes mindsets.”
A radical digital inclusion mindset will ensure the right policies can be implemented to ensure human capital development, Fabio Nascimbeni adds. “When designing and thinking of policies, it is more expensive and takes more time to include everyone, but the more people that are included, the more a policy will have an impact.”
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