Opening the International Conference on International Literacy Day at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, today, September 8, its director general Irina Bokova said that the digital world calls for “new, higher-level, competences” on top of the traditional definition ofliteracy as “a set of reading, writing and counting skills.”
This year’s conference which focuses on the theme, Literacy in a digital worldhas brought together more than 200 stakeholders and decision-makers from around the world to discuss and examine how digital technology can help close the literacy gap and evolve and monitor the necessary literacy skills needed in today’s societies.
“To be truly empowering, new technologies must stand on two pillars. First, they must be inclusive, bridging gaps, not deepening them. Second, they must be underpinned by respect for human rights and dignity. All this gives rise to new questions about the meaning of literacy today,” said Irina Bokova.
Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands and UNESCO special envoy on Literacy for Development who was special guest at the event emphasized how literacy in today’s world is at heart of social participation and engagement. “There is no inclusiveness if we leave behind 750 million people who lack the basic literacy skills to participate in today’s digital world,” she said. “There is no social cohesion if we allow young people to develop feelings of exclusion and lack of self-confidence.”
UNESCO figures indicate that there are 750 million illiterate people around the world, 63% of whom are women.
Sarah Anyang Agbor,African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology said “we must ensure inclusion and proper interventions in using ICT in building sustainable societies for all.”
Other events that followed the opening ceremony included a session on “Rethinking literacy in a digital world” to explore the understanding of the broad skills needed as the concept of literacy evolves; A prize giving event for 2017 UNESCO International Literacy Prizeswith winners from Canada Colombia, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa, presented their programmes to illustrate how digital technologies can help promote literacy and create opportunities for lifelong learning; Discussions on the risks and responses in a digital world with focus on the need for inclusion as increased digitization is deepening the divide.
Photo © UNESCO: Literacy Day 2017 Opening Ceremony in Paris