Executive Summary

Digital Literacy Global Framework (DLGF)

Draft Executive Summary for Consultation

Hong Kong University Centre for Information Technology in Education

for the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning / UNESCO Institute for Statistics


Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) represents the international education agenda for the period 2015-2030. Target 4.4, which is one of its ten targets, focuses on “relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship” among youth and adults. In the absence of many indicators that can compare similar and relevant job-related skills across countries at different levels of development, the monitoring framework for target 4.4 focuses on ICT and digital literacy skills. Thematic indicator 4.4.2 is the “percentage of youth/adults who have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in digital literacy skills.

Just as with many other learning outcome indicators in the SDG 4 monitoring agenda, there is no consensus on what digital literacy skills are and how they could be monitored. To address this gap, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), which is the custodian agency for collecting data on SDG 4 has set up the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML), under which the task force for indicator 4.4.2 has set as its first task the development of a global framework for digital literacy skills. UIS has contracted for this purpose the Hong Kong University Centre for Information Technology in Education to propose a framework and consult with stakeholders around the world. This is the executive summary of the draft digital literacy global framework, which is the document to be consulted in the first half of 2018. The draft DLGF report can be downloaded from here.


In reviewing DL-related frameworks collected from government and non-government agencies, we find that these frameworks’ digital literacy definitions always include the specification of competence areas and tools. For the purposes of this project, we adopt the following definition of digital literacy:

Digital literacy is the ability to define, access, manage, integrate, communicate, evaluate and create information safely and appropriately through digital technologies and networked devices for participation in economic and social life. It includes competences that are variously referred to as computer literacy, ICT literacy, information literacy, data literacy and media literacy.


We have taken as our starting point the European Commission’s Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp 2.1), as it has been developed on the basis of extensive research and consultation in the EU countries. The proposed framework is underpinned by two sets of mapping to the DigComp 2.1 framework: (1) DL curriculum and assessment frameworks at cross-national, national and sub-national levels, and (2) use examples of digital literacy in major areas of social economic activity. The frameworks and use examples have been collected from countries in the following regions: Asia; Sub-Saharan Africa; Middle East and North Africa; Latin America; European Union; High-income countries outside European Union.

Mapping of Digital Literacy Frameworks

We have conducted English-language searches for DL frameworks in the targeted regions using country names in combination with search terms, including digital, literacy, competences, skills, ICT, computer, and information. We have found information about specific DL frameworks being adopted in 43 countries from high to low income levels according to World Bank rating. We have selected seven national frameworks that are most clearly written with regard to the competency areas as well as three popular enterprise frameworks found in numerous countries to map to the DigComp 2.1 framework. We have developed a low-inference coding scheme to map competences from the identified DL frameworks to Digcomp 2.1. The mapping results show that there are two competences referred to in these frameworks that are qualitatively different from any competences defined in Digcomp 2.1, which warrant the creation of new competence areas in the global framework. The first proposed area relates to the basic operations of digital devices and is labelled Hardware and Software Operations. The second relates to specific careers or career opportunities and is labelled Career-related competences. Table 1 shows the Digcomp 2.1 competences and areas with the proposed competences and competence areas. We found only one national framework that has a full coverage of all competences presented in Digcomp 2.1. While we note the differences in the origin and intended usage of the analyzed frameworks, we do not observe any specific pattern of competence coverage that are specifically related to the state of economic development of the originating countries. We also did not find any DL framework that provided such systematic descriptions of different proficiency levels as Digcomp 2.1.

Table 1. The proposed digital literacy competence areas and competences for further consultation.

Competence area Competences
0. Hardware and software operations

0.1 Physical operations of digital technologies

0.2 Identifying data, information and digital content to operate digital technologies

1. Information and data literacy

1.1 Browsing, searching and filtering data, information and digital content

1.2 Evaluating data, information and digital content

1.3 Managing data, information and digital content

2. Communication and collaboration

2.1 Interacting through digital technologies

2.2 Sharing through digital technologies

2.3 Engaging in citizenship through digital technologies

2.4 Collaborating through digital technologies

2.5 Netiquette

2.6 Managing digital identity

3. Digital content creation

3.1 Developing digital content

3.2 Integrating and re-elaborating digital content

3.3 Copyright and licences

3.4 Programming

4. Safety

4.1 Protecting devices

4.2 Protecting personal data and privacy

4.3 Protecting health and well-being

4.4 Protecting the environment

5. Problem solving

5.1 Solving technical problems

5.2 Identifying needs and technological responses

5.3 Creatively using digital technologies

5.4 Identifying digital competence gaps

5.5 Computational thinking

6. Career-related competences

6.1 Operating specialized digital technologies for a particular field

6.2 Interpreting data, information and digital content for a particular field

Note. Underscored competence areas and competences are proposed additions to the existing Digcomp 2.1 competence areas and competences.

Mapping Examples of Digital Literacy Use in Everyday Contexts

Digcomp 2.1 includes use examples to provide vivid illustrations of the different levels of proficiency required to adequately address the DL competence needed under different authentic situations. The usefulness of these European examples motivated us to gather everyday digital literacy use examples under different cultural, economic and technological settings as an additional empirical input to our development of the DLGF. We have focused our search for use examples in low- and middle- income countries, and in major economic or employment areas: agriculture, energy, finance, and transportation. We used English-language searches in a snowball process on Google and YouTube to find news articles, videos, non-governmental organizational reports, software applications and company websites with rich information on everyday digital technology use in the four selected economic areas. Of the 42 initial use examples, we selected 17 highly detailed examples to map to Digcomp 2.1. We identified 13 general functions of smartphone and basic mobile phone use grounded in these use examples, and mapped the DL competences required to operationalize these functions to the proposed framework presented in Table 1.

An important finding of the mapping exercise is that even though the 17 use examples covered all four economic sectors involving the use of both mobile and smart phones, the DL competences mapped covered only half (11) of the 22 competences in the framework. The absence of 11 of the competences in this mapping exercise suggests that they are not immediately necessary or useful to everyday operations in a wide range of developmental contexts. Basic technical and interactive competences seem more immediately necessary. Another important finding is that the competences associated with the examples of use are strongly differentiated based on the nature of the device used.

Pathways for Digital Literacy Development and Assessment

For the purpose of designing curricula and assessment, we recommend that DL frameworks should include descriptions of proficiency and examples of use. We further recommend that in determining the competences to emphasize and proficiency levels to target in a country’s DL strategic development plan, a country should adopt a pathway mapping methodology as developed and included in this proposed DLGF. By connecting the DLGF with meaningful illustrative examples of use suited to the social, economic and cultural development needs of specific countries through the mapping methodology, stakeholders in different countries can have a systematic contextualized approach to identify appropriate DL development goals and strategies.

Based on examples of use that are meaningful for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship in specific sectors, and sensitive to the relevant ICT context, one can design meaningful pathways of digital literacy development. In other words, the developmental context determines the pathway to digital literacy and by comparing developmental contexts, a country can make decisions to change its context and to show progress on pathways to digital literacy. Each pathway comprises competences and task contexts grounded in examples of use. A pathway may involve more than one device type, and more than one sector, representing how in some developmental contexts, digital literacy competence for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship is closely linked with a set of interrelated sectors and technologies. A pathway can be further elaborated for different roles in an economic sector.

Next steps

This draft document is the first step in the process:

  • It adds two new competences to the DigComp 2.1 framework that are likely to be relevant in low and middle income countries: basic operations of digital devices and career-related competences; and
  • It proposes a methodology for further extending the breadth and depth of the framework in these two competences.

The second step is to consult in depth with a select and representative group of experts from different parts of the world with the objective to:

  • validate the methodological approach for extending DigComp 2.1 from a high-income country-centric to a proposed global framework; and
  • enrich the proposed global framework, especially with respect to more use examples

The third step is to then consult widely with a large number of experts from different countries to finalize the proposed framework. Following that, existing assessments will be mapped on to the framework and gaps will be identified in assessments that would need to be addressed in the next phase of the project.