Why is Digital Literacy Crucial for Our Society and Economy?

Background: 

When steam engines were invented in the 18th century and mechanization of production became a reality, the technology innovation has released tremendous manufacturing potentials that have literally reshaped the functioning of the whole world. Over the past three centuries, human beings have experienced from Industrial Revolution 1.0 the implementation of steam power, to Revolution 2.0 the discovery of electricity, Revolution 3.0 the massive usage computer, and at this right moment, we are entering Industrial Revolution 4.0– Industrial Internet of Things. In this new Revolution, we will see even wider applications of information and communication technologies (ICT), with extensive cyber-physical systems, cloud computing, and cognitive computing. Looking back on history, every technology revolution brought us substantial economic developments including increasing production outputs, new employment opportunities, and rising living standards. Nevertheless, the technology revolution also caused the extinction of some industries and enormous unemployment as a consequence. As we are facing the digital economy ahead of us, we need to prepare our young generations with the basic skills to survive in the era– the digital literacy, and this is the commitment of LiveOak Computer Science Company. 

  1. Existing Occupations:

With digital contents’ accelerating development, our existing occupations become highly reliant on the capabilities of understanding and using information and communications technology (ICT), including computer science (CS) and the internet. Using CNBC’s words, “technology is dramatically invading nearly all US jobs, even lower-skilled occupations.” The research by Brookings Institution presents that since 2002, “the use of digital tools has increased in 517 of 545 occupations.” Besides this, the share of jobs that require high-level to medium-level digital skills rose remarkably in the past decade, while the share of jobs requiring low-digital skills fell from 56 to 30 percent from 2002 to 2016. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) even drastically estimates that  “nearly half of all jobs in the United States could be replaced by automation, and the effects would be felt more acutely by those with lower levels of education (technology skills).” This estimate is supported by the fact that in 2017, “nearly half of businesses (45%)  hired new employees with technical knowledge or skills”, and “one in ten businesses laid employees off due to technology.” In other words, digitally illiterate young generations will lose their place in the future economic competition, and the structural unemployment in America’s existing workforce may create even more social instability. Indeed, many workers already realized this anxiety, and in a recent survey, “87% of workers believe that it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with the changes in the workplace.” In short, no matter whether one works in the agriculture sector or the aeronautics industry, all existing professions require basic knowledge of digital skills, and computer education is crucial for our current and future society. 

  1.  New Employment Opportunities

Digital innovation not only affects the current job market, but it also creates new employment opportunities in the Information Technology (IT) industry and the Business and Finance industry with immense economic benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics assessed a 12% growth rate in the employment of computer and information technology occupations between 2018 and 2028, and this is “much faster than the average for all occupations.” Furthermore, “the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $88,240 in May 2019, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $39,810.”  Apart from the IT industry, the Washington Post and the World Economic Forum also projected that the technological innovations will create 133  million general jobs by 2022, “as businesses develop a new division of labor between people and machines.”  Nevertheless, the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations alerted that “nearly two-thirds of the 13 million new jobs created in the U.S. since 2010 required medium or advanced levels of digital skills.” Therefore, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, Medicine recognized that “the education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market.” At present, the U.S. computer science education and technology occupations often face challenges such as the geographically uneven distribution of resources and under-invested human talents. As shown in the Brookings Institution’s report, the new IT jobs are “increasingly concentrated in high-tech centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Austin, Texas,” and the digital rich places are getting even richer. On the other hand, some localities, such as rural Georgia, that were initially with low digital presence may see slower employment growth in the IT industry, and the localities may not achieve as many advantages in the digital revolution as the traditional high-tech centers. To develop its technology strength, the Georgia Department of Education is reforming the education system to ensure that every high school will offer Computer Science classes by 2025. There are millions of IT-talented students in Georgia, however, some of the human talents are under-invested at the moment. According to Code. Org’s report (which is cited by the State of Georgia Department of Education’s Plan for Computer Science Education), even though “54% of students enjoy computer science and 90% of parents want their child to study computer science, the majority of schools (55%) don’t teach computer science.” Moreover, 67% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, only 11% of STEM bachelor degrees are in Computer Science.” Therefore, it is Live Oak’s commitment to promoting computer science education to more students in rural Georgia, as well as preparing faculty members with the capability to teach computer science at schools. 

  1. Economic Importance of the Information Technology Industry

The Nobel prize-winning economist– Robert Solow famously argued that increases in national economic outputs and improved living standards are driven by productivity growth that comes from technology innovation. In the recent future, digital technology and 5G application will continue to be the primary power engine for our economy. According to CompTIA’s study, the estimated direct economic output of the tech industry will generate 1.9 trillion U.S. dollars, and this amount represents 10 percent of the national economy. State-wise, the IT-industry is estimated to bring 53 billion US dollars to Georgia, and this accounts for 9.9% of the state economy. Apart from that, the sector also creates 252 thousand technology occupation jobs and 222 thousand technology industry jobs for Georgia state. More talents’ participation in the technology sector will further promote the development of blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and micro-finance opportunities in the traditional industries (such as business and agriculture), and these will spill out even larger revenues and economic benefits for the state and the county. The IT industry’s expanding share of the U.S. real economic growth suggests the sector’s propelling prominence in the future economy. Nevertheless, albeit the U.S.’s frontrunner position in the technology revolution, “the industry is relatively small in absolute size, accounting for only 6 percent of the total economy.” Thus, there is still substantial space for the U.S. to consolidate and push forward its digital economy. Winning the edge of technology innovation is essential because “ countries that lead the world in generating advanced technologies and leveraging the full productive capacity of their digital economies can gain a strategic competitive advantage.” 

  1. Computer Science Significantly Affects Gender Equality and Racial Equality

Besides the economic analysis, computer science is also important for our society due to its impact on racial equality and gender equality. At present, there is a considerable diversity gap in the computer science profession, with significant underrepresentation of women, Blacks, and Hispanics’ participation in the industry. The Gallup’s report demonstrated some structural barriers that prevent minority groups from accessing the learning opportunities in computer science, and these structural barriers include: 

“1. Black students are less likely than White students to have classes dedicated to CS at the school they attend (47% vs. 58%, respectively).

2. Black (58%) and Hispanic (50%) students are less likely than White students (68%) to use a computer at home at least most days of the week. 

3. Teachers are more likely than parents to say a lack of exposure is a major reason why women and racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in CS fields.”

Nevertheless, Code.Org’s survey shows that “women who try AP Computer Science in high school are ten times more likely to major in it, and Black and Latinx students are seven times more likely.” Hence, it is the LiveOak’s firm mission to combat the stated structural barriers and bring computer science study to more female students and minority group students. We believe that virtual education provides an efficient tool to teach digital literacy to black students and economically-disadvantaged students who do not have CS classes at the schools, and virtual education also increases the opportunities of preparing teachers with computer-science teaching capacity. Moreover, the LiveOak’s specially designed the course content into the “game” format to raise more students’ interests, confidence, and participation in learning computer science. The LiveOak team believes that through our consistent and dedicated efforts, we will expose computer science learning to more female students and racial minority students. 

Conclusion: 

Thomas Friedman once said that “the world is flat ”, and his statement became increasingly possible as technology and the internet are reshaping every corner of our lives. Nevertheless, while technology is flattening the earth and people started to trade with the market overseas, the technology does create new peaks and ebbs in terms of economic distribution. These highs and lows are fundamentally determined by the local community’s access and management of new technologies. LiveOak believes that digital literacy is not only about the global technology competition, but it is also directly relevant to future generations’ living hood. We support the World Economic Forum’s proposal that “in secondary schools and universities, it will be important to teach the building blocks of digital literacy, from basic computing concepts to how platforms are built.” It is LiveOak’s commitment to assist the Georgia Department of Education to expand computer science education and digital literacy to more students who are from underrepresented backgrounds. The students and us will bring more economic success to the state through learning and motivating technology innovation.


  1.  “Industrial Revolution – From Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0.” https://www.desouttertools.com/industry-4-0/news/503/industrial-revolution-from-industry-1-0-to-industry-4-0.
  2.  Supply Chain Game ChangerTM. “The Industrial Revolution from Industry 1.0 to 5.0!,” June 20, 2020. https://supplychaingamechanger.com/the-industrial-revolution-from-industry-1-0-to-industry-5-0/.
  3.  CNBC. “Technology Is Dramatically Invading Nearly All US Jobs, Even Lower-Skilled Occupations,” November 15, 2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/15/technology-is-dramatically-invading-nearly-all-us-jobs-even-lower-skilled-occupations.html.
  4.  Mark Muro Kulkarni, Sifan Liu, Jacob Whiton, and Siddharth. “Digitalization and the American Workforce.” Brookings, November 15, 2017. https://www.brookings.edu/research/digitalization-and-the-american-workforce/.
  5.  Ibid. 
  6.  Penny Pritzker, John Engler. “The Future Ahead.”  Council on Foreign Relations, April, 2018. https://www.cfr.org/report/the-work-ahead/report/findings.html.
  7.  Michelle Delgado. “How Future Technology Impacts Employees | Clutch.Co.” June 26th, 2018.  https://clutch.co/hr/resources/how-future-technology-impacts-employees.
  8.  Lee Rainie, Jenna Anderson. “Experts on the Future of Work, Jobs Training and Skills.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech (blog), May 3, 2017. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/05/03/the-future-of-jobs-and-jobs-training/.
  9.  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Computer and Information Technology Occupations : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm.
  10.  Ibid. 
  11.  Shaban, Hamza. “Machines Will Create 58 Million More Jobs than They Displace by 2022, World Economic Forum Says.” Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/09/18/machines-will-create-million-more-jobs-than-they-displace-by-world-economic-forum-says/.
  12.  Penny Pritzker, John Engler. “The Future Ahead.”  Council on Foreign Relations, April, 2018. https://www.cfr.org/report/the-work-ahead/report/findings.html.
  13.  The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here? Washington DC: The National Academies Press., 2017. https://doi.org/10.17226/24649.
  14.  Mark Muro Kulkarni, Sifan Liu, Jacob Whiton, and Siddharth. “Digitalization and the American Workforce.” Brookings, November 15, 2017. https://www.brookings.edu/research/digitalization-and-the-american-workforce/.
  15.  Atlanta currently ranks 25th place among other U.S. cities in terms of tech employment concentration. Source: CompTIA. “2020 USA Tech Industry Job Market & Salary Trends Analysis | Cyberstates by CompTIA.” https://www.cyberstates.org/#interactiveMap?geoid=0__usa.
  16.  Code.org. “Promote Computer Science.” https://code.org/promote/ga.
  17.  Ibid. 
  18.  CompTIA. “2020 USA Tech Industry Job Market & Salary Trends Analysis | Cyberstates by CompTIA.” https://www.cyberstates.org/#interactiveMap?geoid=0__usa.
  19.  Makada Henry-Nickie, Kwadwo Frimpong, and Hao Sun. “Trends in the Information Technology Sector.” Brookings (blog), March 29, 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/research/trends-in-the-information-technology-sector/.
  20.  Makada Henry-Nickie, Kwadwo Frimpong, and Hao Sun. “Trends in the Information Technology Sector.” Brookings (blog), March 29, 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/research/trends-in-the-information-technology-sector/.
  21.  Talyor, Valerie. “Diversity Gaps in Computer Science: Exploring the Underrepresentation of Girls, Blacks and Hispanics.” Gallup, 2016. https://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/diversity-gaps-in-computer-science-report.pdf.
  22.  Code.org. “Promote Computer Science.” https://code.org/promote/ga.
  23.  Srinivasan, Ramesh. “This Is How Digital Literacy Can Transform Education.” World Economic Forum, n.d. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/why-is-digital-literacy-important/.

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