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Measuring digital and data-related competencies of people in Germany

Competent handling of digital data, information and media is a key qualification for social participation and progress. To this end this is the focus of a new project that starts in August at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi). The research on digital and data-related competencies is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 8.3 million euros as part of the Federal Government's data strategy and the Digital Education Initiative. In the coming years, systematic research will be conducted to determine what is the state of the German population's ability to deal with digital data, information and media. The long-term monitoring at LIfBi collects representative data for Germany from about 6,000 people between the ages of 10 and 70. It is supplemented by a longitudinal study of 5,000 schoolchildren, which helps to understand how digital competencies develop from the 6th grade onwards and how they can be promoted.

Digital data, media and information are ubiquitous. Whether in the use of social media, in the form of digital files or as characteristic values for risk assessment in the Corona pandemic. "Data literacy" describes a person's ability to deal appropriately with such digital data and information, to interpret it, to derive recommendations or principles for action from it, but also to be able to assess the risks of data collection and use. Digital and data-related competences are thus a central prerequisite for the development of one's own scope for action, for civic engagement and the responsible handling of one's own and other people's data.

Karliczek: Data literacy to be recorded across the board for the first time
The "Data Literacy" project at LIfBi in Bamberg is now focusing on this central key competence for the population. The basic knowledge and skills of people are to be recorded, which are to be regarded as a prerequisite for competent handling of digital information and data in everyday life. During the BMBF's funding of the project, Federal Minister of Education Anja Karlizcek pointed out in a BMBF press release that there is as yet no scientifically validated information on how well these skills are actually held by the population - especially in different age groups. The new funding now makes it possible for LIfBi to record the level of knowledge and skills of the population across the board. Based on this, learning opportunities, courses and further training could be specifically tailored to the needs of the population in the future.

Expertise comes from LIfBi
"We at LIfBi are well equipped to carry out this important project," explains Prof. Dr. Cordula Artelt, Director of LIfBi and one of the applicants for the new project. "We draw on our comprehensive expertise in the content and practical design of the test procedures, data collection, data protection and finally also the processing of the data for scientific use and can therefore implement the ambitious long-term monitoring project promptly."


Representative cross-section of the population from children to senior citizens

A research design is to be implemented that captures digital and data-related competencies for the federal population in a representative manner in the form of recurring cross-sectional surveys. For this purpose, 6,000 people between the ages of 10 and 70 will be repeatedly interviewed and tested. In addition, a longitudinal approach will be used to specifically focus on pupils in secondary education. Starting in 2022, a sample of 5,000 children will be monitored from the 6th grade onwards. In this way, the individual changes in digital and data-related competences from the end of childhood to the transition into adolescence can be surveyed over a period of several school years and the development and conditions for this key competence of modern societies can be recorded and better understood.

The large-scale project "Data Literacy: Long-term Monitoring of Digital and Data-Related Competencies of the German Population" will start in August 2021 and run until 2026. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Federal Government's data strategy. The promotion of the population's data skills is a central component of the Data Strategy and the Digital Education Initiative and is intended, among other things, to help tailor learning opportunities to the needs of the population in the future.


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