• August 2015

Futurist Michael Vidikan Lays Out the Future of Digital Literacy

By Michael Vidikan
Future in Focus

As digital life has moved from unconnected personal computers, mainly concerned with word and data processing, to myriad always-on, connected media devices, what do you need to know to be a successful digital citizen?

Where once a family member may have asked for help formatting a document, or finding a file, now we seek assistance establishing a presence on Facebook or learning Twitter etiquette.

These new concerns reflect the fact that digital life is always-on, social, and increasingly collaborative in nature. With these changes come new demands on users’ time and attention, and as a result, new skills are needed in order to successfully participate in and navigate the digital world.


  • What one needs to know to be a successful user of digital media has evolved.
  • Skills needed to be digitally literate include attention, filtering, participation, and collaboration.
  • Companies that learn to be digitally literate could hold an advantage over competitors and customers.


Digital literacy is the ability to effectively navigate and participate in today’s world of digital media and devices. Definitions vary to some degree, but most reference the ability of people to find, organize, evaluate, use, create, and communicate information using digital technologies.

As the social and technological environment changes, what people need to know to thrive in a networked, digital world continues to shift. Several factors are driving the need for new digital literacies.

  • Digital lifestyles. As recently as 10 years ago, digital interactions occurred at discrete points in the day and were contained to a small range of activities (e.g., email, online shopping, viewing webpages). Fast forward to today, and there is very little of a modern lifestyle that has not been touched and transformed by the Internet or digitization: communication via always-on social networking; entertainment and socializing; work (telecommuting, cloud-based software); and personal finance (mobile banking, social funding sites like Kickstarter).
  • Hyperconnected, mobile interactions. The shift from episodic, online interactions to an always-on and mobile digital experience is changing the skillset required for digital living — and the future will be increasingly mobile and connected. GSMA forecasts that the number of personal, mobile, connected devices will rise from 6 billion in 2011, to 12 billion in 2020. Even in a World 2 country such as Pakistan, more than half the country already has a mobile phone.
  • Blurred boundaries. The spread of Wi-Fi access points, QR and other scannable codes, geofencing, and augmented reality (AR) programs continues to weave the digital and “real” worlds together. Ironically, by allowing users to cut the cord to the desktop and venture out into the “real” world with their devices, smartphones and other mobile devices are giving users the opportunity to immerse themselves deeper into the digital world. Navigating this new terrain, where the digital and “real” worlds overlap and are intertwined, will require new skills.


  • While this analysis primarily focuses on highlighting the digital literacy needed by individuals, companies will also need to continue to grow more digitally literate. Building capacity in this area may become an increasingly important element of remaining competitive as the use of digital media grows and the centrality of the Internet centrality increases. Companies should regularly assess their digital literacy, and ask questions such as:
    • How data-literate is our organization?
    • Is our organizational culture on the leading edge of collaborative and participatory practices — or are we laggards?
    • Does our network presence contribute to the communities we engage in, build our trustworthiness, and encourage reciprocity from our target audiences?
    • Do the IT tools and devices we provide our employees with help them mindfully manage their attention — or do these tools add noise and distraction into the equation?
  • On a basic level, there is a need for educational services to teach people what they need to know to be more effective and educated digital citizens. This could take a variety of forms — corporate training, K–12 curricula, or even training apps. For instance, an app might monitor user behavior and provide real-time interventions to help train a user to manage attention, or reminders to help a user be a more active online participant.
  • Security in the digital world will remain a persistent consumer and business issue in coming years. While not addressed directly in this analysis, the question of security should be considered through the lens of each of the digital literacies. For example:
    • Does intense participation or collaboration open me or my organization to increased security risks?
    • How do we manage these risks?
    • How do we filter real risks from non-threats?

Don’t stop here! This is but a taste of the full brief. To learn about buying the entire brief, subscribing to Michael Vidikan’s monthly stream, and gaining access to more than 1,400 reports, visit FutureInFocus.com.

Michael Vidikan is the CEO of Future in Focus, a strategic foresight and consulting firm that helps companies see years or even decades into the future to make better long-term decisions today. Vidikan is a graduate of the MBA program at The George Washington University, where he also received his undergraduate degree in business and psychology. When he’s not focusing on the future, you can find him experimenting in the kitchen, testing out the latest interactive gaming technologies, or volunteering in his community and raising money for Movember, a global organization committed to changing the face of men’s health.

About Future in Focus: Future in Focus is a strategic foresight and consulting firm that offers custom and subscription-based research to help companies see years or even decades into the future to make better long-term decisions today. Founded in 2014 by futurist Michael Vidikan, the firm continues the work previously done by Social Technologies, which was founded in 2000 by futurist Tom Conger. It was sold in 2009 to Innovaro, a company focused on software and innovation solutions. Today, there are more than 1,400 briefs in Vidikan’s database that focus on the future of everything, from cyber-security and home furnishings to robotics and food preferences, including demographic and generational trends, country and regional profiles around the world, and emerging business models. Learn more about subscribing here.

For more information: Contact Vidikan at michael@futureinfocus.com • Cell: 202-669-8055.