Guide to Digital Competence + 6 Steps to Become Digitally Competent

By Kay FleuryUpdated on February 22, 2021

In today’s world, having the ability to use digital technologies has almost become a necessity, especially when applying for jobs. In the past, using computers and digital devices was specific to particular fields, and not the norm. Now, many jobs require the use of computers and technology in some form – if not for main job functions, then to access job schedules, payroll, and other various job-related data.

If you need to get on board, read on. We can teach you everything you need to know about what digital competence is, what it means, and how to develop a digital competence framework. We’ll even throw in some steps to becoming digitally competent yourself. Let’s start with the basics.

What is digital competence?

Digital competence is the ability to not only understand and make use of digital technologies and systems, but also to possess the confidence to use them creatively, critically, and without assistance. This is generally geared toward succeeding in the modern world at one’s job, hobbies, or personal endeavors.

Woman relaxing while using a tablet device on a couch

Digital competence is essentially the same as digital literacy, and generally refers to the ability to understand and make use of digital technologies without needing assistance from others. Many employers consider digital competence a required skill for work.

What is the Digital Competence Framework?

The Digital Competence Framework is a list of 21 competencies and skills that the European Commission determined necessary for European citizens to be sufficiently digitally competent. The framework outlines basic skills, examples of how to utilize those skills, and tasks one should be able to perform.

The framework is broken down into 5 competence areas, each with a specific skill:

  1. Information
    a. Browsing, searching, and filtering
    b. Evaluating
    c. Storing and retrieving
  2. Communication
    a. Interacting through technologies
    b. Sharing information
    c. Engaging in online citizenship
    d. Digital collaboration
    e. Online etiquette
    f. Managing your digital identity
  3. Content creation
    a. Developing
    b. Integrating and re-elaborating
    c. Copyright and licensing
    d. Programming
  4. Safety and protection for
    a. Your devices
    b. Your data and digital identity
    c. Your health
    d. The environment
  5. Problem solving
    a. Technical issues
    b. Expressing needs and identifying technological responses
    c. Using digital tools
    d. Identifying digital competence gaps

Each area contains 3 to 6 skills to master, divided into skill levels of basic user, intermediate user, or proficiency user. These skills include: browsing, searching, and filtering information, to collaborating through digital channels, securing digital devices, and many more. If you want to see a complete list, check them out in “A Common European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens” by the European Commission.

Excerpt from the European Commission Digital Competence Framework

The framework is a great outline if you want to self-learn digital technology and are interested in establishing a baseline for how digitally competent you are. Or, if you are an instructor, it’s useful as a guide to help you evaluate your students. If you want to increase your own digital literacy, check out our steps on how to increase your digital skills below.

6 steps to becoming digitally competent

1. Learn how to access, evaluate, and store information.

This is one of the most basic skills when one begins using digital technology, especially the Internet. The Internet, above all, contains information, usually available for access by anyone in the world with an Internet connection. However, learning to search for information isn’t enough; you also need to know how to evaluate what you see to determine its legitimacy.

In addition, storing digital information to retrieve it later is another crucial skill. There are over 1.8 billion websites to access; without a way to remember where a certain piece of information came from, or a way to access it again, that information can’t be utilized to its full potential.

2. Improve your communication by learning how to interact with others.

Being familiar with your digital devices, including how they can access the Internet, is a good start to becoming digitally competent. However, knowing how to properly communicate with others over the Internet (and other digital networks) unlocks even more of the potential of these devices. After all, the Internet provides us with the ability to share aspects of our lives with our friends, family, and colleagues on a global scale.

Practicing digital communication skills, then, is key to your success at becoming digitally competent. It’s important to learn the appropriate protocols for communicating with others across digital networks, especially when it comes to deciding whether or not to share information about yourself with others online. Much of the world’s communication is done digitally now, especially for business purposes, so this is an important skill to cultivate.

3. Create and share your own content.

Digital technologies allow us to showcase our talents and express ourselves across a variety of mediums. By learning how to create, format, and share digital content, you can increase your impact on the world exponentially. Regardless of whether it’s done for work, play, or some other reason, digital content creation has become a fundamental building block of the Internet.

4. Understand proper online safety practices.

Exercising caution and understanding online safety is something you must learn before utilizing devices, the Internet, and digital technologies. Though getting online can help increase your safety and security in many ways, if you don’t protect the privacy and security of your digital devices, you could be at an even greater risk than those who don’t use technology. Be sure to check out this article about how to stay safe on the Internet to learn more about protecting your privacy and security when you go online.

5. Become proficient in technical problem solving.

Though this is a more advanced skill to have, not all technical problem solving is ‘highly technical.’ Some basic issues such as a frozen computer screen, a loss of saved files, or malware installed on your computer can have simple solutions. In the very least, there is usually an easy way to learn how to solve these types of predicaments. Try solving computer complications on your own first, before asking others, by applying simple problem-solving skills to your technical issues. You’d be surprised at what you can figure out by yourself when you try!

6. Make digital learning a life-long endeavor.

Even after developing all of these skills, or at least improving some of your existing skills, you need to continuously work on your digital literacy skills, and on staying up-to-date with current digital trends. In an ever-changing industry, your skills will need to be cultivated on an ongoing basis. Never stop learning!

Resources for teaching your own digital competencies

The European Commission – “A Common European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens”
A description of each of the 21 digital competencies laid out by the European Commission. Includes examples of how to use them and evaluate others’ use of them. This document also contains context for the policy, and why it was put into place.

The Joint Research Centre – “Digital Competence in Practice: An Analysis of Frameworks”
An overview of the European Commission’s Digital Competence Framework in practice, including a detailed description of its importance and case studies of its implementation.

Europass – “Digital Competence”
An outline of the 5 areas of competence, with a rubric for self-assessment in each area.

That’s our introduction to digital competence and the digital competency framework. Remember that improving your digital literacy is an important component of being successful in today’s world, so start working on it today! As part of that, be sure to check out the rest of TechBoomers to learn more about the digital world!