New Standard Will Help Nations Accelerate Digital Literacy and Digital Skills Building


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global rush towards the digital transformation of nearly all aspects of daily life.  Given the pace of these changes, digital literacy and digital skills have become a mandatory part of education and training for all people. It is critical for nations to rapidly develop and incorporate high-quality digital literacy and digital skills education and training programs across all age groups.

The scope of these skills must be comprehensive enough to enable people to maximize the benefits of digital technology with new job opportunities available in the digital economy, while minimizing the risks and helping to overcome the challenges of the digital world. However, to date, there have not been consensus definitions of digital literacy or digital skills, which has led to pronounced educational and training gaps in digital skills across regions, sectors, and genders.

One of the most affected groups is children, who are heavily influenced by the digital skills gap with schools closing, fewer services available, and a tremendous increase in unregulated online access due to COVID-19. Beforehand, children were already suffering from insufficient support on digital literacy and digital skills, as evidenced by the 2020 Child Online Safety Index that reported that 60% of 8- to 12-year-olds across 30 countries were exposed to at least one cyber-risk. The risks children face are varied and include cyber-bullying and victimization, risky meetings, gaming addiction, privacy invasion, obscene content, and fake news.

World’s First Standard for Digital Literacy, Digital Skills, and Digital Readiness

It is timely that the IEEE Standards Board approved IEEE 3527.1™ Standard for Digital Intelligence (DQ). It is the world’s first global standard related to digital literacy, digital skills, and digital readiness. The path to standard started with the Digital Skills work group under the IEEE Internet Initiative and the formation of an IEEE Industry Connections program focused on Digital Intelligence, led by Melissa Sassi and Stephen Whyber, which undertook a detailed review of digital skills frameworks and identified the DQ Framework to be the most comprehensive as it addressed Digital Identity, Digital Rights, Digital Literacy, Digital Communications, Digital Emotional Intelligence, Digital Security, Digital Safety and Digital Use.

DQ Digital Literacy Infographic

“After reviewing hundreds of frameworks, definitions, platforms, and modules, the Digital Intelligence Working Group, was thrilled to have identified one that encompasses the skills required to make meaningful use of the internet. Our mission behind the work has been to align the world to a standard framework to guide both informal and formal sectors from around the world to empower others with the digital skills necessary to prepare for the future of work while being safe and secure online,” said Melissa Sassi, Digital Intelligence Working Group Chair.

Fueled by the Coalition for Digital Intelligence (CDI), formed in 2018, with its member organizations of the OECD, IEEE SA, and DQ Institute in association with the World Economic Forum, a commitment was made to promote digital literacy and digital skills around the world through a common language of digital literacy and digital skills by using the DQ framework that was developed by the DQ Institute.

With this, the IEEE SA brought together major telecom-operators such as Singtel and Turkcell along with government agencies such as Singapore SkillsFuture and the Incheon Techno Park of the Korean government to standardize and institutionalize the DQ framework and to support its growth and refinement into a set of global standards that lay out a common language, structure, and taxonomy that can be benchmarked, referenced, and adopted across nations and sectors worldwide.

Building a Framework for National-Level Digital Literacy and Skills

IEEE 3527.1 comes at an opportune time for nations around the world that are in urgent need of a reference framework to develop national-level digital skills agenda for citizens ranging from students and the workforce to seniors. The standard has multiple benefits for nations and industries as follows:

  1. It will help nations and industries to effectively build their own curriculum and programs for digital literacy, digital skills, and/or digital readiness.
  2. With a globally shared baseline understanding of what terms like digital skills and digital literacy mean, nations, nonprofits, and industry can coordinate digital skills efforts and effectively enhance the level of digital literacy and digital skills of their citizens in local communities and nationwide.
  3. The common set of definitions and standards will enable monitoring and reporting that can help to strategically allocate resources to identify and bridge digital skills gaps.
  4. The standard will help trigger globally accepted certification that can increase job opportunities and mobility across the world, which can yield billions of dollars of economic value to nations in the fast-expanding digital economy and help to overcome the economic challenges caused by COVID-19.

Learn more about:


  • Yuhyun Park, P3527.1 Digital Literacy and Skills Working Group Chair
  • Melissa Sassi, IC17-014, Digital Intelligence Working Group Chair
  • Karen McCabe, Public Affairs & Marketing, IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA)

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