Literacy and Digital Technologies: Linkages and Outcomes

This paper investigates relationships between adult literacy skills and use of information and communications technologies (ICTs). Using the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL), ICT use is compared to attitudes toward computers, literacy skills, and other sociodemographic characteristics, including age, gender, and education. The research uses data from Canada, Bermuda, the United States, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland and examines outcomes associated with literacy and ICT use. In addition, it describes adults’ computer and Internet use in Canada and “digital divides” both within and between countries. Apart from Italy, there are few differences between the countries. However, large divides exist within countries when examining respondents grouped by their level of income. Region, age, gender, education, and literacy help predict whether a respondent is a “high-intensity” computer user. A significant decline in ICT use occurs after age 45 in all countries. In the European countries, clear gender differences exist in ICT use but not in North America. Less educated respondents are less likely to use computers, specifically in Italy and Bermuda. In addition, computer and Internet use and attitudes toward computers tend to increase with higher literacy. Literacy and computer use also relate to higher earnings.