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Home » Talking Points: Lisa Varga, Co-Founder and Co-Director of DigiCo

Talking Points: Lisa Varga, Co-Founder and Co-Director of DigiCo

Good morning, thank you for the opportunity to address you all today. I am the founder of The Digital Collective, a not-for-profit organisation advocating for the digital inclusion. We aim to tackle the increasing digital divide globally. This divide is not only creating an alarming distance to the labour market especially for individuals in vulnerable situations, but also generating social exclusion as society moves further into the digital age. We catalyse the social impact of digital skills interventions by partnering with organisations, governments & communities that are actively working on bridging the digital skills gap. 
Digital literacy is imperative as we move through the 4th industrial revolution, it is the biggest education challenge facing us today and we need to take a similar mindset to our approach to literacy. Recently published studies have found that up to as many as 92% of jobs now require basic digital skills, these aren’t jobs dealing with coding, or data science, these are jobs across industry, from hospitality to finance and even as far as agriculture. Basic digital skills are no longer an advantage that provides access to better paying jobs, connection with family or access to digitised services like banking, it is essential to fundamental human needs –  access to food & shelter – as unemployment for those that lack it will continue to increase, meaning individuals can’t provide for themselves and their families. 
There are clear links between education level / literacy and basic digital skills, and considering the statistics within the Indian EU markets, we can tackle 2 birds with one stone so to speak, supporting both digital literacy and eradicating illiteracy more broadly. Many of our programmes increase literacy along with digital skills. There are interventions and frameworks that exist, are being utilised and have proven results. There is an opportunity for us to work together to scale and optimise these across markets – unifying our approach and providing further labour mobilisation & access.
DigiCo works closely with policy makers and the European commission as we understand that tackling this issue requires a unified approach. Utilisation of EU wide frameworks such as DigiComp is imperative to scaling the initiatives that will successfully close the digital divide and support the skills shortage that already exists in the labour market. 
Technology is constantly evolving and teaching digital skills, critical thinking and growth mindsets foster a lifelong learning mindset which is necessary to keep up with the speed of change. The emergence of accessible generative AI models highlights the urgency needed to take action. These types of technologies have many applications and the power to support vulnerable communities for instance with language barriers. However, as we know it is those from lower socio-economic backgrounds that often don’t have access to the infrastructure, skills and knowledge to utilise this technology and if we don’t act quickly to tackle this are at risk of being further left behind.
In India, digital skills and AI are already assisting in the rapid transformation of core sectors such as healthcare, citizen services, MSME, agriculture, and manufacturing. These skills are also helping in the creation of a trustworthy and secure environment to promote innovations, India also has a large proportion of highly skilled digital talent, however, if we are looking at creating a value chain of digital talent needed to support wide-scale investment and emerging technologies, we need to fill the gap in basic digital skills and make sure the entire workforce can effectively do their jobs and enter the job market. By tapping into underserved communities we can exponentially increase the volume of digital talent to support technology development. 
I’d finish by summarising the opportunity. If we are able to continue to unify our approach to basic digital skills, including new technologies and merging these efforts with literacy, if we are able to tackle those communities that are in the most vulnerable situations to ensure we are taking the most equitable approach, if we are able to partner with governments and organisations that can provide infrastructure (access to internet & hardware) in rural communities and vulnerable areas – we will be able to ensure we have a skilled, productive and representative labour market.
Thank you.