The beginning of the year comes with many reflections, goals, and most importantly, preparation. Some are waiting in anticipation and preparing to go to university for the time this year or even start a new job. And this may come with certain requirements such as the ability to use a computer. As some of you will know, having basic computer literacy skills makes it easier to complete some tasks and increase the rate of productivity.
What is computer literacy?
In the simplest terms, the ability to know how to use a computer. Your computer literacy can be determined by the level of familiarity and expertise you have with computers. This includes knowing how to operate software programs, platforms and other computer programs commonly used in different types of institutions and settings.
Before getting to the more “complex” aspects of computers, you have to start with simple basics such as knowing how to switch a computer on and off. This might seem like unnecessary or irrelevant information to someone who has been exposed to computers from a very young age but believe it or not, at some point, even the best computer boffins didn’t know how to switch on a computer at some stage. Basics may include typing, knowing the different computer parts, and learning keyboard commands.
Computer Literacy skills
Before anyone starts panicking, the good news is that computer literacy can be learned and transferred which becomes computer literacy skills.
Computer skills categories: Hardware and Software
Hardware skills speak to the physical aspect of operating a computer. This includes the ability to switch on and off your devices. Knowing which part is which and what its purpose is. This can include more complex aspects such as connecting machines to the network, changing and fixing parts of devices. On the other hand, Software skills help you use computer programs and applications efficiently.
Two of the most popular software programs are Microsoft Office or G Suite which has programs including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access. It is important to understand that different programs serve different purposes. For example, Word Processors such as Word and Google Docs are used for producing digital documents whilst Excel and Google Sheets are for organizing data, budgeting, and counting numbers because of the easiness of the spreadsheet.
Why is it important to be computer literate?
- A pre-requisite to participate in the new world (i.e. the digital world or 4IR)
A big portion for most careers or even getting through university will require the use of computers as a part of completing daily tasks. It, therefore, becomes important to know how to operate a computer and why it’s important. Most jobs now require the use of computers, mobile devices, or software applications in some capacity. Some employers will require prior knowledge or experience with specific applications, while others will offer on-the-job training. Secondly, having a foundational understanding of computers makes it easier to learn advanced programs as needed by the course that you are studying or the organization that you work for.
- Efficiency and productivity
One of the big benefits of being a computer literate person is that you can become more efficient and productive at a quicker rate. For example, if you are an employee, you can produce more work in a shorter period of time, freeing up time to do other tasks. If you are a student it would be more efficient for you to type all your assignments on the computer compared to writing them out freehand.
- Better communication
Another positive for computer literacy is the ability to improve communications, especially if you are familiar with emails. If you’re a student, you can easily connect with lecturers, fellow mates, share notes and other documents. If you’re an employee, this means you can have more streamlined communication with clients and your colleagues. Most companies use communication and collaboration tools to help with communication. These project management tools can range from Slack, Asana, Trello and JIRA. Therefore, if you can’t use a computer, this means you will also struggle to navigate the workplace with these tools.
How to improve your computer literacy?
- Practice, practice, practice
Practice makes perfect. One of the best pieces of advice you can get regarding improving your computer literacy is to just keep practicing. For example, if you want to learn how to type faster, set out 30 minutes every day to just type religiously and time yourself.
- Set SMART goals and commit
You need to remember that only learning the skill is not sufficient. You need to set smart goals to become better and good. For example, if you take 50 minutes to complete a PowerPoint presentation, keep practicing and aim for 40 minutes next time.
- Register for a short course
It goes without saying that before learning any technical skill, you will need a fundamental skill of how to use a computer. Taking a proactive approach to educating yourself might be your best bet. There are several computer training academies out there such as Silulo Training Academy. If you’re completely new to the computing world, you can try in-person learning or if you just want to improve a skill, you can try online courses. Sites like Lifewire have good tutorials and blog posts on how to improve your computer literacy. Companies like Standard Bank, Microsoft SA, and Pioneering Solution Studio have partnered to help anyone become digital literate for free (visit: www. icted.online and select Microsoft Digital Literacy V4 or v5, register and then get started).
- Ask someone to teach you
If you know of anyone who might be willing to give you a few lessons and teach you some basics, perhaps you should consider approaching them. Asking won’t hurt and it might require less complication than traveling for an in-person course to an institution or worrying about the data for an online course.