Initiator of the Digital Academy Northern Netherlands Robin van den Berg: Digital illiteracy goes through all ages and education

The digital skills of many residents of northern Holland need to be improved. It is crucial for the future, says Robin van den Berg. Anyone who thinks it’s a mustache is wrong.

Northerners and computers are not always a successful marriage. An example presents itself easily, says Van den Berg, initiator of the Digital Academy Northern Netherlands, which is launched today in Groningen. “Just think of all the Groningen residents who recently stood in the cold at the town halls applying for earthquake grants. It was very disturbing. Of course, they could also have searched online, but obviously thought it wise to stand in line themselves. A large part was apparently not digitally skilled enough. ”

Although many have worked from home for almost two years and therefore whiz across the digital highway every day, this does not mean that the Internet and computers no longer contain secrets, says Groningen-born Van den Berg, who has been active in ICT for more than 25 year. Certainly not everyone who is handy with computers is his experience. It is also a misconception that especially the elderly are not very good at it.

“Many young people are not as digital as we think. You can still find Tiktok, but if you ask a young person to save a file in the cloud, it often turns out to be difficult. Digital illiteracy affects all ages and levels of education. You even have professors struggling with it. ”

“With the Digital Academy, we want to raise the level of the people of northern Holland one step further. In all possible areas. Think, for example, of the grandfather who wants to make video calls with his grandchildren. The employee in a company who has difficulty with excel files. Another who would like to learn programming. We want to give people more confidence in the computer, explain how cookies work, inform them about things like security. It’s good for everyone. North Holland must be ready for the second digital revolution, that development we must be able to keep up with. We really need to get started now. ”

How many people from Groningen are digitally ignorant?

“It is not completely known. It is estimated that in our country there are between 2.5 and 4 million people who fall into this group, according to studies by the Central Bureau of Statistics and the European Commission. These are big numbers. So we know that there are also hundreds of thousands of people in the Nordic region. However, there is still a lot of data missing, relatively little research has been done, many things are not completely known. From the research group Digital Transformation of Hanze University of Applied Sciences, we also want to research digital literacy in the north of the Netherlands. Only when we have information can we roll out a good program. ”

What are the consequences of this lack of digital knowledge?

“There is a difference between people. And the digital divide is increasing social inequality. If you can not access the Internet, you do not have access to all kinds of information. You can not do online banking, you sometimes have to drive half an hour to get to a bank. You can not access the corona app. This can lead to loss of productivity for businesses. Lack of digital knowledge costs them money. Many employers today have the idea: We have already invested in digital skills. People can still work with a mouse, and many people are still working with Word as before. But employers are doing little.

The government is also digitizing more and more. The Netherlands is a fairly digitalized country, at least if one is to believe the research. 97 percent have access to the Internet, it reads. But if you look closely, you will see that this is not all. Almost everyone actually has an internet connection up to the front door, but that’s another thing that almost everyone uses the internet. You really need to make the government aware of these things. ”

How will you reach out to all the people who are not really digitally proficient? After all, it will not work online.

Becoming digitally proficient always starts offline. We need to expand and use the network we already have. We do this through town halls, welfare work and the library. Possibly via flyers. We use the help structures that are already there. At the same time, we also want to do research to map the target group properly. The campaign is expected to start soon. ”

Do you understand that some people give up? It gets more and more complicated.

“Yes, a lot of people are asked. The government continues to rumble with digitalisation and sometimes forgets to look back, to see if everyone can keep up. If you do research, you will see it. That’s why that kind of research is so important. One can then on the basis of facts say: government, take it easy now. There is a risk of losing some of the residents. ”

There is a desperate shortage of IT staff in the business world. Why do so few people choose such a course?

“ICT is a lot more fun than many people think. It has a bit of an image problem. It’s quite nerdy , is often thought. Data scientist is the sexiest profession, Harvard recently concluded. I do not know if that is true. Fortunately, the number of women on our Make It Work retraining course is increasing. It goes very well. And if there are more women who can act as role models, more girls and women will automatically come to ICT education. ”

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