Digital intelligence

Digital intelligence: how can we educate people for the world of the future?

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Digital intelligence is essential in a world that is riding on the back of digitalisation. This is why developing skills and competencies related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which goes far beyond knowing how to use a smartphone or a tablet, must be one of the priorities for society in general and for the education sector in particular.

Digital intelligence.
Providing children with digital intelligence is a challenge for parents and educators.

Today's world is not the same as it was 20 years ago, and tomorrow's world will not look like today's either. Digitalisation has transformed our way of thinking, feeling and living and its evolution is so dizzying that change, which was once the exception, has become the norm. So, change management has emerged as a basic skill for people in the 21st century. But far more important than this is digital intelligence, which, to be developed, necessarily requires disruptive education.

Digitization of education

Education is one of the fields where digitalisation has had the greatest impact. ICT has been incorporated into classrooms and homes but, in addition to the tools, the key question is: how can we educate people for the world of today and tomorrow? Because developing digital intelligence goes far beyond operating a mobile device: the essential thing is to equip people with the necessary skills to cope with digital life.

The Internet has made access to education universal but it is not equal everywhere because of the digital divide. Online education, for example, has become an alternative to face-to-face education, not only helping classes to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic but also fostering lifelong learning — especially for those who combine education with work responsibilities — in a world that is pushing us towards spending our lives learning.

What is digital intelligence

According to the DQ Institute, which coined the term in 2016 and subsequently launched the #DQEveryChild Movement with the World Economic Forum External link, opens in new window., digital intelligence is "the sum of the social, emotional and cognitive skills that enable people to meet the challenges and demands of digital life". It also points out that these challenges do not increase because of the devices we use but rather because of the experiences to which they give us access.

Digital intelligence will become vital for developing the digital skills and digital profiles that this century demands. The goal for educators, therefore, is to go beyond thinking of ICT as a new educational platform and to foster their students' ability to excel in a world where digital media are ever-present.

Just as we can measure general intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), the DQ Institute claims that digital intelligence (DQ) can also be measured. It also points out that it is highly adaptive and can be built on day by day, being assimilated more effectively at an early age. Without intelligence of this kind, one is more exposed to threats such as cyberbullying, identity theft or disinformation (fake news).

The keys to digital intelligence (levels and capabilities) 

Digital intelligence is divided into three levels:

  • Level 1. Digital citizenship

Use technology and digital media safely, responsibly and effectively.

  • Level 2. Digital creativity

Create new content and turn ideas into reality through the use of digital tools.

  • Level 3. Digital entrepreneurship

Use digital media and technologies to solve global challenges or create new opportunities.

In turn, digital intelligence must develop a number of capabilities:

 Digital identity

Create and manage your own online identity and reputation. This includes understanding your online personality and managing the short and long term impact of your online presence.

 Digital use

Use digital devices and media with ease, including self-monitoring to achieve a healthy balance between your online and offline life.

 Digital security

Avoid and limit online risks (cyberbullying, grooming, radicalisation, etc.), as well as problematic content (violent or obscene content, among others).

 Digital protection

Detect cyber threats (piracy, scams, malware, etc.), understand the best practices and use appropriate security tools for data protection.

 Digital emotional intelligence

Be empathetic and build healthy online relationships with other people.

 Digital communication

Communicate and collaborate with other people using digital technologies and media.

 Digital literacy

Find, evaluate, use, share and create content, and develop computational thinking.

 Digital rights

Understand and defend digital rights (to privacy, intellectual property, freedom of expression and protection against hate speech, among others).

The eight basic skills of digital intelligence.
The eight basic skills of digital intelligence.

How can we promote digital intelligence 

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution advances and our lives become increasingly connected, the health and prosperity of societies around the world will depend on digital intelligence. Children are already immersed in the digital world — they literally have it at their fingertips — and they will define the world of tomorrow, but to do so they need to be equipped with the necessary skills. To achieve this, the whole of society must be involved, both the public and private spheres.

  • The political establishment needs to understand the importance of digital intelligence as the basis of a digital society and make it a priority to implement programmes that boost the digital capabilities of its citizens. In turn, it must fill the gaps in the education systems, providing them with resources and expertise.
  • The digital world offers numerous opportunities, but it is also a source of concern for parents and educators. Education, therefore, must begin within the children's sphere of influence: their parents at home and teachers at school. Opportunities for assessment, which allow children to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses, are essential in order to guide them towards success.