Mark McCusker, CEO Texthelp

Where’s literacy heading next?

Digital technology has transformed the way we live, work and learn. But while it’s created countless new opportunities for us to interact and share knowledge, this connected world has come at a price.

The web and social media remain out of reach for those without the raw skills or opportunity to access them. As a result, age-old societal inequalities are now joined by a new – and equally unwelcome – source of marginalisation: the digital divide.

Literacy (or lack of it) remains a stubborn challenge for three quarters of a billion adults who struggle to read and write. And it’s far from being a problem limited to countries blighted by severe poverty or conflict. In the UK, over 5 million adults are functionally illiterate, while in the US one in four children grow up without learning to read.

What is literacy?

But before we can build solutions, maybe we need to start by asking what ‘literacy’ really means. 
There are two distinct dimensions to literacy. On one level, it’s about individuals using spoken and written elements of a person’s mother tongue, leveraging them to communicate and stimulate their own personal success and the success of others - whether that's sharing an idea, having fun or making a worthwhile contribution to society.

At a deeper level, it’s about harnessing language to frame abstract thoughts and deconstruct them to use effectively at multiple levels. Hard skills, in other words, are only part of the story. Fundamentally, literacy is about articulating and sharing our own experience of life – and finding a connection with others.
The Internet has nuanced this picture profoundly, and ‘Digital Literacy’ now characterises our ability to access, process and act on information in a range of online contexts.

Technology has revolutionised teaching and learning – and it’s also driving fundamental change in the world of work. As our Future of Literacy report forecasts, there won’t be a single job in the next twenty years that doesn’t include some dimension of digital literacy.

Everything’s changing. Fast.

It’s impossible to predict what skills and tools will be needed for people to thrive in decades to come. But we do know that we need to support EVERYONE in society - especially those with neurodiverse challenges. 

No less than 10% of the population experience some form of dyslexic difficulty. In several professional sectors – like healthcare, blue light services, the creative arts and engineering – that figure climbs higher still. Across the UK, meanwhile, 30% of doctors and 40% of nursing staff speak English as a second language. 
Lets encourage everyone to be literate, in an even deeper sense of the word than we use currently. 

What does ‘literacy’ mean to you? 

Want to know more about how today’s tech can boost neurodiversity in your own workplace? Visit our dedicated resource area for hints, tips and useful information


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