Following the path of digitalization in Slovenia and Europe: Are you digitally literate? Where does Slovenia rank in the EU?

More than half of people in the European Union had at least basic overall digital skills in 2021, according to recent data from the Statistical Office of the European Union – Eurostat. The share of people with digital skills was highest in the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland, while the lowest percentage was recorded in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.

Although quite a few articles on this topic have been published on the Slovenec website under the Računalniške osnove (Computer Basics) section, this article will explain which skills fall under basic digital literacy and where Slovenia ranks among European countries.

What does digital literacy mean?

In general, digital literacy has many common principles with other areas that use different adjectives (general, mathematical, financial, etc.) in front of the same word – literacy – to define specific knowledge or competencies. The term digital literacy has become increasingly popular in educational and higher education environments. It is used in international and national standards, based primarily on the concepts of computer, information and visual literacy.

Digital literacy, according to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, refers to an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and clearly communicate information through typing and other media on various digital platforms. It is assessed by an individual’s grammar, composition, typing skills and ability to produce text, images, audio and designs using technology.

The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills”. Although digital literacy initially focused on computers (computer literacy), its field has expanded further with the occurrence and development of smartphones.

“Digital literacy is everywhere, and everyone possesses some level of it,” says Karin Cross-Smith, resident of Heretto, a software company. As an example of digital literacy, she cites a child who picks up a smartphone for the first time and starts using it intuitively, or when a user watches a video tutorial to teach himself to use a new app right away. “It’s the ability to navigate an environment that’s fully integrated with diverse technologies.”

Digital literacy is everywhere, and everyone possesses some level of it.
Digital literacy is everywhere, and everyone possesses some level of it.

What skills fall under the umbrella term digital literacy?

Digital literacy is usually defined as a “soft skill“, as it is not so much about using one particular technology but rather the ability to learn and adapt to technology. According to Joaquim Miro, partner and marketing director (CMO) at Hoppin’ World, digital literacy involves four major pillars.

Miro explains these four pillars as the abilities to; stay up to date with existing technologies, properly communicate in an online environment, manage your ideas in an online environment, and manage teams leveraging technology. Within these abilities is otherwise knowledge of several different technologies. For example, communication in an online environment could involve video conferencing platforms, using email, installing various applications on mobile phones, etc.

“Digital literacy refers to someone’s ability to use IT [information technology] and digital technology to find, evaluate, create and communicate information,” says Matt Dunne, hiring manager at HealingHolidays. “If an applicant claims to have digital literacy skills, I’d expect them to be able to conduct thorough online research, which they can then analyse and evaluate. I would also expect them to be capable of creating a range of different digital documents and of using digital communication systems.”

An understanding of web browsers, search engines and email is an expectation in digital literacy — not a perk, Dunne points out. “These are now considered pretty basic skills. While it isn’t a huge advantage to have them, it’s a big disadvantage to not have them.” According to the website of American University Rasmussen, employers expect at least five skills in the field of digital literacy from their future employees, which are not necessarily related to technology: independent research, familiarity with terms and common platforms, collaboration, adapting to new technologies and sufficient understanding of technologies you use to teach others.

Skills that help in finding a job

“A lot of digital literacy is figuring out how to use technologies that you’ve never seen or only have a cursory knowledge of,” says Cross-Smith. “The ability to independently research and problem-solve speaks volumes of a candidate’s knack for adapting to dynamic technical landscapes—an incredibly valuable asset.”

Knowledge of various terms such as Wi-Fi may not be considered special knowledge, but it barely existed as a concept thirty years ago. Today, there are many terms known to the average internet user and even more terms that this user could understand by simply searching and researching. Experience with essential office software, such as Microsoft Office, is also considered part of digital literacy.

Playing nicely with others might not seem like a starkly digital skill, but you’re part of a team,” Cross-Smith points out, adding: “When that whole team is part of an ecosystem that uses a bouquet of different technologies, being able to marry collaboration and independent problem-solving makes true digital literacy a well-rounded professional characteristic.”

According to Miro, one of the most critical aspects of digital literacy is the ability to adapt very quickly to new technology. “You need to keep an open mind to innovation whenever it’s implemented within your office. This is the most important skill as it allows for the workplace to remain agile and up to date with the latest progress across each company’s respective industry.”

One of the most critical aspects of digital literacy is the ability to adapt very quickly to new technology. Photo:
One of the most critical aspects of digital literacy is the ability to adapt very quickly to new technology.

Teaching or explaining technologies you use can be crucial in several different ways. Maybe you will need to teach a new recruit how to use the technical tools they’ll need daily, Cross-Smith explained on the website. “Digital literacy is both understanding and imparting knowledge on a continual basis. It’s important because you’ll be on both the learning end and the teaching end of technologies for the rest of your career.”

Apparently, only half of Slovenes are digitally literate…

Do you know how to read news websites, send an instant message, use word processing software, or manage access to your personal data? These are some of the basic digital skills that the European Union measures in its 27 Member States.

According to data from the Statistical Office of the European Union – Eurostat, in 2021, more than half of people (54%) aged 16 to 74 in the EU had “at least basic overall digital skills“. This means that they can perform at least one activity related to each of the following five areas: information and data literacy skills, communication and collaboration skills, digital content creation skills, safety skills and problem-solving skills.

As already mentioned, the Netherlands and Finland achieved the highest results in basic general digital skills with 79%, followed by Ireland with 70%. Romania (28%), Bulgaria (31%) and Poland (43%) have the lowest share of basic overall digital skills. Slovenia shares 15th place with Cyprus at 50%, but it is clearly a more digitally literate country than Germany or Italy, which are behind us.

Eurostat states that digital skills are some of the key performance indicators in the context of the Digital Decade, which sets out the EU’s vision for digital transformation. Among the targets is that at least 80% of EU citizens aged 16-74 years old have at least basic digital skills by 2030.

The World Economic Forum lists on its website basic digital skills, some of which we have already presented: finding information online about goods or services or reading online newspapers, sending and receiving emails and using social media, using word processing or spreadsheet software, and editing photos, video or audio files, changing internet browser and personal security settings, selling online, internet banking and installing software or apps.

Author: Rok Žontar

Keywords: digital literacy, skills, statistics, Digital Decade, European Commission.


This article is part of joint project of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and the Anton Korošec Institute (INAK) Following the path of digitalization in Slovenia and Europe. This project receives funding from the European Parliament. 

The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union institutions/Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies/ Anton Korošec Institute. Organizations mentioned above assume no responsibility for facts or opinions expressed in this article or any subsequent use of the information contained therein.