In 2009 the network ‘Learn more about IT’ started up in earnest. This initiative plays a major role in a broad societal effort to improve Danish citizens’ IT competences.
‘Learn more about IT’ is a national network, comprising the entire library sector, unions, all municipalities, adult educational associations and interest groups concerning the elderly, IT and non-ethnic Danes.
The network was established when analyses of the Danes’ IT skills showed that although the public as a whole have generally come a long way in terms of using IT, it is still clear that more must be done to make sure that everybody reaches an acceptable standard of proficiency. The Danish community is becoming ever more digitised, and it will become steadily more difficult for people to manage if they are unable to use the increasing number of public and private IT self-service solutions. International surveys have also demonstrated that citizens with IT skills are less likely to become redundant than citizens without these skills. With this in mind, the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation decided to launch a number of initiatives to improve the Danes’ IT skills, and here ‘Learn more’ is a central element. Despite their widely different back- grounds the network partners are totally agreed that via ‘Learn more’ it will be possible to motivate the 20% of the Danish population without – as well as the 20% with limited – IT skills to discover the advantages of being able to use IT in their everyday lives.
Ownership and a united approach
The network has opted for a flat organisation where everybody contributes to the collaboration on IT mediation to the Danish population. The National IT and Telecom Agency, which is part of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, started the ball rolling, but the actual pivotal point is that all partners enjoy ownership of ‘Learn more’ and are active players in the current development of activities in the network. This is the only way to ensure impact, continuity and innovation.
The libraries as focal points
From the very beginning it was essential for the IT and Telecom Agency to form a partnership with the library sector, because the libraries have direct contact to the public as well as having the mediation of knowledge as their core obligation. Here the individual citizen can receive free, manageable instruction in IT – IT mediation – which is easily accessible and tailormade individual needs.
With a view to supporting IT mediation libraries all over the country have, just like their other partner organisations, given their staff time off to participate in intensive courses on IT mediation using a particular pedagogical concept. The concept is targeted anyone who works with mediation and learning within the IT area, and enables the organi- sations to prepare especially relevant instruction material in IT for the purpose of teaching the citizens at an advanced pedagogical level. So far there has only been positive feedback: By using this approach people are able to tackle IT safely and happily and to use it later on. It should be mentioned that the pedagogical concept is not a ‘must’, but only an offer to the partners involving a thoroughly tested, relevant pedagogical method to be applied in IT instruction at – particularly – beginner’s level.
Trained IT mediators also offer ‘on the job training’ in 2010 in the pedagogical concept of ‘Learn more’, and colleagues in the library as well as in other organisations in the network have welcomed and accepted this. The IT mediators offering ‘on the job training’ come from the libraries and the training is encouraged and supported by the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media and the National IT and Telecom Agency.
The library sector’s active and constructive role in ‘Learn more’ is without exaggeration absolutely vital for the implementation of the initiative and its continued success in Denmark.
The Danish library act from 2000 stipulated an extension of the libraries’ obligatory tasks, which i.a. increased the focus on digital media, including internet-based services. The libraries have in their general mediation task embraced the coupling of mediation and the digital media in various ways over quite a number of years. As mentioned earlier, ‘Learn more’ arrived only last year and thus landed right in the middle of IT mediation activities in the libraries. In the IT and Telecom Agency, as well as in the partnership as a whole, we have therefore greatly appreciated the commitment and tenacity with which the libraries have joined ‘Learn more’ and integrated the initiative in their daily work.We are particularly pleased that the library sector sees the IT-pedagogical nationwide collaboration with others players as being both relevant and beneficial, and consequently also supports the general conception that together we are certainly stronger.
How do the network partners use each other?
One excellent effect of the network collaboration is that due to ‘Learn more’ partners at both local and regional level work together on IT mediation and IT courses for the public. For example, the local library helps citizens, who have participated in IT introductions here, move on to more indepth IT courses at The Danish Association of Senior Citizens or at the local adult education association.
After a nationwide TV and radio campaign in autumn 2009, the purpose of which was to encourage the Danes to use IT, the local collaboration proved its worth: The campaign really gripped the population to the extent that subsequ- ently there was an increased demand for introductory IT courses/ mediation by many ‘Learn more’ partners. Here the network partners have helped each other with for example the loan of premises for IT instruction and extra instructors.
‘On the job training’ is also being used, e.g. when staff from the local library and citizen service centre are instructed in how to prepare user-oriented IT mediation and in the use of the many freely available teaching aids which are to be found on the network’s common resource www.it-formidling.dk. The site has proved to be a forum for news, cooperation between IT mediators, exchange of pedagogical material etc.
Apart from local collaboration, the network also supports larger national, joint digitisation campaigns by offering user-oriented instruction in the use of concrete solutions. In 2010 the network is i.a. collaborating on supporting the promotion of a new, public digital solution (NemID) for all citizens in Denmark. The partners are offered free teaching and campaign material, and the network coordinates dates so that IT mediation and IT instruction coincide with the relevant public campaign. In this way the greatest possible cohesion and impact are secured for the country as a whole.
The libraries and ‘Learn more’ in the future
There is no doubt that the libraries now, as well as in the future, will be very strong operators in the network when it comes to getting through to the public. This will show itself at the pedagogical level where we shall continue education and ‘on the job training’ of IT mediators, as well as provide more learning modules at www.it-formidler.dk. This also applies to the continuous coordination of national digitisation campaigns.
In 2010 and 2011 we are also planning to focus on the possibility of IT proficient people helping those with lesser skills within this field – the so-called ‘citizen-to-citizen instruction’.When it comes to campaign material, infor- mation and mediation to the public, the libraries will be in great demand.
To keep up with the times ‘Learn more about IT’ must keep renewing its focus. We are therefore very keen to hear about the experiences from other countries, and we encourage everybody to contact us with information, comments or questions. We regard ‘Learn more’ as a unique, national collaboration and are very pleased that the network is growing steadily and gaining more impact. And we hope that in the future, too, we can share knowledge with players in the rest of the world and strengthen the IT competences of the public to everyone’s benefit.
Nina von Staffeldt
National IT and Telecom Agency
nbvs AT itst.dk
Translated by Vibeke Cranfield