Xiaolan Fu advises on new UNCTAD report on building digital competencies

Professor Xiaolan Fu served as advisor for a new report from the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCTAD) on building digital competencies.

The report highlights the opportunities and challenges of existing and emerging technologies on digital skills and competencies with a special focus on youth and women in developing countries.

It explores what skills and competencies are needed to exploit emerging digital technologies, how digitalisation can enhance the strengthening of skills, and what policies are necessary in developing countries to prepare them for the current technological wave.

In the report, Professor Fu argues that there is still a digital divide not only between developed and developing countries but also, within developing countries, between rural and urban areas. She notes that there is a gender gap in the use of Internet, which is exacerbated in developing countries and LDCs. According to Professor Fu, this gap, coupled with limited representation in the ICT workforce, suggests that women may have more difficulty participating and taking advantage of ICTs.

She notes that because across the world young people are more connected to the Internet than the average population, they are in a better position to take advantage ICTs. She says, however, that most of the youth excluded from the opportunities offered by ICTs are concentrated in Asia, Africa and the Pacific regions.

She stressed the need to develop the digital competencies of women and young people in developing countries if we are to take advantage of ICTs. She calls on policy makers to build digital competencies through education and training, and also indirectly through the creation of enabling environments through investment in infrastructure, institutional development and entrepreneurship.

She advocates for the effective use of ICT technologies themselves to enhance the delivery of education and training, especially life-long learning capabilities and building up digital competencies in society as a whole. She concludes by stressing the need for international collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnership such as private-public partnerships. According to Professor Fu, these collaborations are very important, given the existing divide between developed and developing countries in resources, skills and infrastructure.

Pu Yan, a doctoral student at the Oxford Internet Institute provided research assistance in drafting the report.

Read the report