Literacy and Digital Technologies: Linkages and Outcomes - ARCHIVED
Articles and reports: 56F0004M2005012
This paper investigates relationships between adult literacy skills and use of information and communications technologies (ICTs). Using the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL), it becomes possible to compare respondents' ICT use, based on self-assessed ICT use patterns and attitudes toward computers, with literacy skills and a number of socio-demographic characteristics, including age, gender and educational attainment. The paper offers data for Canada, its provinces and territories, as well as five other countries (Bermuda, the United States, Italy, Norway and Switzerland), allowing international and inter-provincial comparisons. An important objective of the paper is to examine outcomes associated with literacy skills in combination with patterns of ICT use, and this is achieved by profiling these characteristics and studying their relationships with respondent income. In addition, it offers a portrait of adults' computer and Internet use, including purposes of use, attitudes toward computers, and use of other ICTs, and analyzes such use, with a detailed focus on Canada.
Patterns of Internet and computer access confirm the existence of "digital divides" both within and between nations. Apart from Italy, differences between the countries included in this study are not large. However, as found elsewhere, large divides exist within countries when examining respondents grouped by their level of income. In Canada, the Western provinces, the territories, and Ontario emerge as leaders in ICT use, although regional patterns are complex and vary depending on the specific technology examined.
Many other factors are also strongly associated with respondents' ICT use. Age, gender, educational attainment, and level of literacy proficiency help predict whether a respondent is a "high-intensity" computer user. A significant decline in ICT use is found to occur after age 45 in all countries. The findings for ICT use by gender, however, were mixed. In the European countries included in this study (Italy, Norway and Switzerland), clear gender differences emerge but no such gap exists in North America. Respondents with less than upper-secondary education are significantly less likely to use computers for a range of purposes, and this pattern is most pronounced in Italy and Bermuda. In addition, scales that measure individuals' use of computers and the Internet, and attitudes toward computers, tend to increase with the literacy proficiency of respondents.
Finally, literacy and computer use profiles are strongly related to the likelihood that respondents have high earnings. In most countries included in this study, adults who have average or higher literacy skills and who are intensive computer users have about three to six times the odds of being in the top quartile of personal income, compared to respondents with below average literacy skills and less intensive computer use.
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