Pelicans flyingThe previous and current government has developed a number of policy directives concerned with addressing the issue of digital participation.  A key document, the Digital Britain Report (2009), sets out the strategy of the government in placing technology at the centre of the UK’s economic recovery, but in doing it recognises the importance of  people having the ‘…capabilities and skills to flourish in the digital economy’. 

Raising the level of digital literacy is seen as an integral part of increasing participation and utilising of new technology in the information age. The issue of web literacy and the importance of having requisite skills to participate in the information society has also been identified as a crucial area by the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience heeded by Prof. Sir David Melville (2009). Research commissioned by this committee, into the use of web 2.0 in HE, by academics, researchers and learners, raised as a critical issue the importance of students information literacy. 

Their findings found that though students in HE may well be pervasive users of social networking sites, blogs, virtual environments and other multi-media forms, but they lacked deep critical skills to analyse and validate information on-line.  The report therefore recommends that HE institutions should see digital literacy as a priority area not only in the pedagogic context but as part of increasing student employability.  The ability to efficiently search for information and critically evaluate information on-line is a necessary skill for students in the digital economy.

Research on the digital divide has shifted attention from questions of access to technology (hardware and software) to that of digital literacy, such as the ability to effectively ‘operationalise’ information (Dijk, 2005). Research by Dijk (2005) highlights forms of inequality that flow from lack digital literacy and also importantly highlights the importance of education as a key site for people to use and develop their information skills.

Dijk, J. V. 2005. The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society. London: Sage.

Melville, D. (2009) Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World: Report of Committee of Enquiry into the Changing Learner Experience at: Melville, D. (2009) Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World: Report of Committee of Enquiry into the Changing Learner Experience, Available at:

Flying pelicans courtesy of mike baird

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Dr Tracy Simmons

Department of Media and Communication

Dr Palitha Edirisingha

Beyond Distance Research Alliance