The UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy is launching its Guidelines for Designing Inclusive Digital Solutions and Developing Digital Skills on the occasion of International Literacy Day, which this year examines integrated approaches to literacy and skills development.
In an increasingly digitised world, people need digital and literacy skills to work, live, learn and communicate productively. Without these skills, people face marginalisation not only in the physical world but in digital realms as well. Fortunately, digital exclusion is avoidable.
Purposefully designed solutions can help people—even those with very low literacy levels and nascent technology skills—navigate digital spaces and benefit from relevant applications, such as those that connect users to health services, support refugees or help farmers improve productivity.
The guidelines released today will help technology pioneers build more inclusive digital services. They show private companies, NGOs, international organizations and governments what factors to consider, questions to ask and processes to follow when developing solutions for people with limited literacy skills and low digital skills.
The guidelines provide recommendations to support the development of digital skills and literacy; to better understand and design for low-literate users; to create more engaging content and usable interfaces; to ensure the implementation environment supports inclusive usage; and to constantly monitor, measure and improve solutions.
UNESCO developed the guidelines over a two-year period, drawing on a landscape review of digital inclusion strategies for low-skilled and low-literate people and a set of fourteen case studies. The guidelines reflect the views of an international expert group and were further refined based on feedback from public input.
Making digital solutions more inclusive
The recommendations aim to increase the inclusivity of the varied digital solutions in use today as well as solutions still to be developed. Examples include an app to improve farming practices in Uganda; an online registration website for Syrian refugees in Turkey; and a maternal health SMS service in India.
Digital tools and services such as these provide digital entry points for low-skilled and low-literate people and create a virtuous cycle that accelerates learning and development, while empowering individuals and strengthening communities.
Improved livelihoods and more literate societies
The guidelines seek to help people who are still new to internet-connected technologies—collectively, half of the world’s population—find and use digital service. These people typically have low levels of education and are disproportionately poor, elderly, female and from remote areas.
Users that develop digital skills seek out new and empowering digital solutions and commonly teach others how to use technology, creating a multiplier effect that drives further uptake. The guidelines show how a focus on digital inclusion supports literacy development for the 750 million youth and adults currently unable to read or write. They also carry a potential to strengthen livelihoods by fostering the development of new and easy-to-use portals to information and skills development.
Overall, the guidelines help a wide-range of digital solution providers and planners develop content that is usable to people who have previously been excluded.
If you wish to participate in the upcoming UNESCO-Pearson webinars about the guidelines, please sign up here.
About the project
The guidelines grew out of a partnership between UNESCO and Pearson and are part of Pearson's Project Literacy campaign. Pearson is a global digital education company with expertise in educational content and assessment, and a range of teaching and learning services powered by technology. Its mission is to help people make progress through access to better learning.
- Visit the UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy: Improved Livelihoods in a Digital World page for more information about the project or download the guidelines.
- Read more about the people and inspirations behind the digital solutions.
- Visit the website for International Literacy Day (8 September).
- Read more about UNESCO and literacy.
- Visit Pearson website.
- Visit Project Literacy website.