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What is Digital Illiteracy, and Why Does It Affect Your Business?

By Arooj Shakeel
October 5, 2023

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While only two decades ago, no one needed a computer or a cell phone to get around; we have now entered the digital age, where technology has taken over every aspect of our lives. However, the world is on the verge of dividing the literate and the illiterate – literally and digitally.

The importance of digital literacy as a necessary component of our daily lives is becoming more apparent. As a result of technology’s ever-increasing presence in our lives, we have all become reliant on it to stay informed, connected, and productive. Digitally literate people have a significant advantage over those who are not, as technology is rapidly advancing and becoming more ingrained in our lives. Digital literacy impacts all types of businesses, from small local businesses to multinational corporations, because it influences how well they can efficiently leverage modern technology to offer products/services or maintain market competitiveness.

The latest technology provides businesses new opportunities and potential pitfalls if employees and customers must know them. Customers today, for example, expect companies to use innovative web tools for customer service or to provide comprehensive online product information. If this condition is met, businesses can avoid losing sales or reputation points due to negative online reviews from dissatisfied customers.


What is Digital Illiteracy? 

Literacy is typically associated with reading and writing abilities, but digital literacy is a broader concept. Some define digital literacy as the ability to navigate the digital world using websites or applications, while others define it as the ability to read, discern, and understand Internet content. We define digital literacy in this article as the ability to operate and use devices such as computers, smartphones, automated kiosks, and gadgets. As a result, digitally illiterate people need to understand how to use these technological devices. The world is entering the age of automation, particularly in first-world countries. 

Bank tellers, for example, have been gradually replaced by internet banking, while popular food chains such as McDonald’s have fewer employees and more automated ordering kiosks. During the coronavirus outbreak, governments in some countries have used mobile applications to control the number of people in any location. Automating these processes is unquestionably more efficient because it speeds up queues, is less expensive than hiring more staff, and creates fewer opportunities for incidents, complaints, or a lack of quality control. Human-computer interaction becomes routine after a while. 

The Effects of Digital Illiteracy on Business Results 

Digital illiteracy has a significant impact on business outcomes. A lack of digital technology awareness and engagement has numerous negative consequences, including lost productivity, increased expenses, and the risk of falling behind competitors.


  • Digital illiteracy within a business may result in a significant decrease in output. Employee productivity can fall dramatically if they lack the knowledge to use available digital technologies. As a result, tasks may take longer to complete and have a higher error rate. Employees unable to use technology effectively to communicate information or collaborate on projects may be unable to communicate within a team or between departments.
  • Finally, companies that do not address the issue of digital illiteracy risk falling behind competitors who have embraced new technology and invested in training their employees to use it effectively. Organizations operating in any area or industry would be at a significant disadvantage in today’s digitally-driven economy if they failed to keep up with technological developments or understand how they can be used effectively. 
  • The costs of a workforce lacking digital skills could be significant. Companies will need to invest in employee training programs and new software, and other technology that will allow for better collaboration and productivity. Furthermore, if they lack these skills internally, businesses must weigh the cost of hiring workers who are already proficient in digital technologies.

How to Address Workplace Digital Illiteracy 

A variety of strategies can be used to combat workplace digital illiteracy. These strategies should include, but are not limited to, the following: 

Coaching and training: Businesses should provide employees with formal or informal opportunities to learn digital skills through coaching and training. This can include providing employees access to online resources such as tutorials and instructional videos and investing in programs or courses to improve their digital skills. Employers can also encourage their employees to participate in online forums to learn from one another, share ideas, and practice their newly acquired skills.

Digital Learning Paths: Companies should create digital learning paths for individual departments or teams to increase employees’ proficiency with digital tools and systems. These paths should be tailored to the organization’s needs, teams/departments, and current employee skills. Each path should include specific goals for each employee’s advancement, such as obtaining certifications or attaining specific skill levels with specific tools and applications.

Mentorship: Businesses should also establish mentorship programs between individuals with more expertise in technology and those who are still learning or require additional assistance. Employers can facilitate adopting digital skills and increase collaboration by connecting new users with experienced ones. 

Evaluation and Feedback: Regularly assessing employees’ digital literacy is critical for identifying knowledge or skill gaps and providing targeted improvement options. This can be accomplished through individual supervisory interviews, staff-wide surveys, or technical proficiency tests in programming languages and office software suites. Regarding the appropriate use of technology in the workplace, regardless of the evaluation method, feedback is critical for encouraging continued growth and development among staff members.

Getting Rid of Digital Illiteracy  

While developed countries could always revert to manual methods, it would be counterproductive to do so for the benefit of a quarter of the population. It would certainly not benefit the country’s economic progress. Technology is almost certainly here to stay, with the only way forward being to educate the digitally illiterate on how to use technology to their advantage. Switching to automation saves businesses and governments a lot of money. If these parties could use a fraction of that money to make life easier for the digitally illiterate, we could include this marginalized population in the advancement of our society. 

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