Brookfield Institute launches research series to explore the state of digital literacy in Canada

The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship has launched a new research series that explores the state of digital literacy in Canada, and aims to help policymakers understand the need for digital literacy in Canada’s workforce.

According to the Brookfield Institute, the research series will explore what digital literacy is, why it’s important in a workplace context, and what the current gaps and opportunities are in the current landscape of digital skills and education in Canada. The research series builds on the Brookfield Institute’s recent literature review, which defines digital literacy and looks at the digital economy and the changing nature of the Canadian workplace.

“The continued shift toward digitization is making digital literacy essential for today’s workforce and the workforce of the future.”

As part of the series launch, the Brookfield Institute released Digital Literacy in a Digital Age, an initial discussion paper that looks at key issues and questions that arise in debates about digital literacy. The paper also sets out the Brookfield Institute’s initial perspective on the need for digital knowledge and skills, explains what digital literacy comprises, and provides a framework for understanding digital skills.

In the discussion paper, the Brookfield Institute notes that it is conducting research on the state of digital literacy in Canada, in part due to the growing impact of automation in Canada’s workforce. A recent report by the Brookfield Institute estimated that 42 percent of the Canadian labour force is at risk of being affected by automation over the next 10 to 20 years.

“Certain skills are likely to become less relevant as technology is applied to a wider range of job tasks, while demand for skills that are complementary to emerging technologies is likely to grow,” the paper reads. “The continued shift toward digitization is making digital literacy essential for today’s workforce and the workforce of the future. Equipping Canadians with a range of digital skills will be critical, both to ensure a robust talent pipeline for employers, and to support the development of an inclusive economy.”

In the initial discussion paper, the Brookfield Institute also presents key insights and hypotheses about how digital literacy is understood in the Canadian context. For example, the paper states that in Canada, there is an awareness that emerging technologies like blockchain, AI, and augmented reality will intensify the need for digital talent across sectors. Another insight is that the current supply of digital skills in Canada’s workforce is insufficient to meet employer demand, and this gap can be reduced with the adoption of digital literacy policy and program solutions.

“This preliminary research offers insights into the state of digital literacy in Canada and how its constituent parts can be understood.”

The Brookfield Institute is hoping that these insights will help it answer important questions and better understand the nature of digital literacy in Canada.

In the next phases of its research, the Brookfield Institute plans to examine data related to digital skills supply and demand across Canadian industries, map current digital literacy focused programs and policies in Canada, develop actionable recommendations to address existing barriers, and take hold of opportunities to develop digital literacy in Canada.

“There is broad recognition that digital technologies are increasingly woven into the fabric of work and daily life, and that this has implications for the skills that Canadians need to participate in the workforce, both today and into the future,” the discussion paper reads. “This preliminary research offers insights into the state of digital literacy in Canada and how its constituent parts can be understood.”

This research series isn’t the Brookfield Institute’s first project that looks at the need for digital skills and impact of automation on Canada’s workforce. In March, the Brookfield Institute released a report, which suggested that youth must be equipped with a broader suite of technical and soft skills to remain competitive in a changing workforce.

To help move its research forward, the Brookfield Institute is calling on experts and researchers to participate in the conversation and test the Institute’s assumptions, as well as provide feedback. Those interested in providing feedback can get in touch with Andrew Do or Annalise Huynh.

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer and content creator at BetaKit with a strong interest in Canadian startup, business, and legal tech news. In her free time, Amira indulges in baking desserts, working out, and watching legal shows.