Digital Literacy: Concept and Definition

Digital Literacy: Concept and Definition

Katrīna Elizabete Biezā
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJSEUS.2020040101
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Digital literacy is a widely used concept that has become pluralistic, often avoiding a clear definition of what digital literacy actually means. However, acquiring digital literacy is still a global issue. Given the vast potential of digital technology as it grows and evolves, it is essential to understand what the concept of digital literacy is and how it is applied in today's context. The aim of the study was twofold: (a) to analyse the recent literature available in the EBSCO database regarding definitions of digital literacy; and (b) to provide an overview of the concept of digital literacy and related skills. Using a systematic literature review, 45 academic papers were selected, of which 17 articles were analysed after further evaluation. Qualitative analyses were carried out to better comprehend the range of digital literacy definitions, as offered by authors.
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In 2014, the United Nations adopted the '2030 Agenda: Sustainable Development Goal 4,' aimed at 'ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all'. One of the important elements disclosed in this document is education aimed at enabling people to acquire the requisite skills to enter the labour market, given the demands of today's society. One of the most important components of such readiness is acquisition of information and communication technology (ICT) skills (United Nations, 2018).

The Organisation for Economic C-operation and Development [OECD] (2015) emphasises that, with the rapid entry of technology into our lives, the modern world has changed. In fact, a different kind of thinking in society is needed. At the end of the 20th century, with the emergence of new and new technological opportunities, the word 'digital' has entered almost every area of our lives (Cvetković et al., 2018). Currently it is a phenomenon of the 21st century, with terms such as 'digital age', 'digital citizens and noncitizens', etc. Nowadays, digital literacy is often understood as (1) a variety of digital tool utilisations involving simpler and more complex operations, (2) security measures related to the safe use of the digital environment, and (3) information obtained mainly through Internet resources (Buckingham, 2015). Many authors are starting to emphasise digital literacy as a broader and more complex set of skills than simple use of digital technology; however, there is a lack of clear understanding about what skills and competences should be added and how this should be accomplished (Buckingham, 2015).

As Buckingham (2010) points out, access to digital technology – in and of itself – is no longer an issue in today's society. However, it is important to understand how to use the technology and, above all, what skills are needed to do so. Given the vast potential of digital technology as it grows and evolves, it is essential to understand what the concept of digital literacy in today’s context means, and how it is applied. Accordingly, there is a broad discussion in which many authors present their understanding of the essence of digital literacy, providing both the meaning and content surrounding the concept. Nevertheless, there is a lack of consensus as to what digital literacy entails.

Research questions:

  • 1.

    what meanings are embedded in the digital literacy concept?

  • 2.

    what skillset does digital literacy involve?

The aim of the study was to carry out a systematic literature review on the genesis of the term 'digital literacy'.

Limitations. This article used academic publications that are available on the EBSCO database in full access, were published in English between 2017 and 2019, and are related to the term 'digital technology'. Although the article analyses scientific publications from various disciplines, the purpose of the study is to introduce digital literacy’s broad context in educational sciences.



To analyse the concept of digital literacy, the author performed a systematic literature review using the methodology provided by Byrne (2017). For systematisation of the data, the Search, Appraisal, Synthesis, and Analysis (SALSA) framework (Grant & Booth, 2009) was applied

  • 1.

    Search – selection of articles

The study was conducted in April and May 2019. The study analysed articles on the definition of digital literacy available in the EBSCO scientific database. The keywords used in the searching process were 'defining digital literacy', resulting in a selection of 6019 articles. Additional restrictions were placed, limiting the language (English), reading availability of the article (only articles that were available in full access), year of publication (only articles published from 2017 to 2019) and subject matter (articles related to the term: digital technology).

  • 2.

    Appraisal – quality criteria

In all articles, the aim was to find definitions of digital literacy that explained the author's view of the digital literacy concept.

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