Internet skills need supersonic improvement

With a rising need for tech­nic­ally sound engin­eers and people who can work with advanced net­work machinery, there’s also an alarm­ing rise in the num­ber of people world­wide who lack badly in the basic inter­net skills department.

So, let’s go ahead and dig deep into why there’s such a great digital divide across and out­side the edu­cated class on the planet, espe­cially among adults who are a step fur­ther away from the inter­net than those who just hap­pen to encounter it at work.

# 1: Unman­aged Migration

The inter­net was ori­gin­ally a defence based pro­ject — ARPANET. Before the 1970’s no one had ever ima­gined some­thing like this, that would con­nect people far and wide with each other, would ever be put to com­mer­cial use, given secur­ity con­straints. Much less think about impart­ing basic inter­net skills to individuals.

As it did become com­mer­cial­ised, there was very little incent­ive for people to add it as a skill that would be needed in every­day activ­ity. So it became more of a resume item, than an added field of tech­nical know­ledge. This unman­aged migra­tion has res­ul­ted in a large num­ber of indi­vidu­als — even those who are incred­ibly intel­lec­tual and cap­able to shy away from the inter­net as it was never hard­wired into their understanding.

Irre­spect­ive of how big the prob­lem was, there was still a bit of you that was repent­ing for hav­ing got involved with it.

And what about doing some­thing that there was a burn­ing need in you to do? I mean some task so dear, you wanted to do it and suc­ceed with it no mat­ter what!

Well, the inter­net is a sim­ilar case. Until and unless there’s a burn­ing need for using the inter­net and get­ting it right, there’s no point try­ing to learn any basic inter­net skills. They won’t stick. What is meant by this? It simply means that con­nect­ing to a net­work with a wealth of inform­a­tion won’t be a pre­ferred option if the inform­a­tion required isn’t valu­able, or if the per­son is just try­ing to build up his resume and isn’t ‘NEED’ driven to use the inter­net for his/her benefit.

What Can Be Done: The best way to get someone famil­iar with proper inter­net usage is to give them a task that has a short dead­line and requires them to go hunt­ing over dis­cus­sion for­ums online or to use a search engine like Google to get to web­sites that lead to more and more web­sites, each giv­ing them some pieces of the inform­a­tion required to com­plete the task. It becomes a kind of game in the long run, but it’s very effect­ive. People not only get the job done quicker, they also get a rush of what surf­ing the web can be like, in a fun way.

#3 : Real­ising The Power Of The ‘Interwebz’

Since many people are new to con­nect­ing vir­tu­ally, the digital divide has the prob­lem of tech­nical under­stand­ing. Well that’s easy to solve by sit­ting in an instruc­tion lab for a week or so. If not excel­lent, you will at least get com­pet­ent at it.

But the big­ger prob­lem is that people do not know the true power of the web yet. In fact, even those who made the inter­net go com­mer­cial could not have real­ised how power­ful it would become.

While, earlier it was only offi­cial work and doc­u­ments that needed to be com­mu­nic­ated or emailed, now it’s more about social net­work­ing and con­nect­ing with oth­ers on an emo­tional level.

But these factors are not the true power of the web. They are merely small pro­cesses and tools. Moreover, the inter­net is evolving into a problem-solution technology.

This means — with new pro­fes­sion­als and experts in nearly all fields shar­ing more and more of their know­ledge that solves deep prob­lems faced by oth­ers, the inter­net is turn­ing into their solu­tion ground for people facing hurdles to find them quickly and get their answers! So there’s not only a need for people to mas­ter basic inter­net skills to find these experts, there’s also a hope of find­ing a solu­tion that’s likely to drive them to exploit the web prop­erly in times to come.

So the power of the inter­webz lies in imme­di­ate solu­tions to every­day problems

What Can Be Done: Let me explain with an example. Sup­pose you’re facing a root canal treat­ment for your tooth. And there’s some prob­lem that you can’t fig­ure out but you’re not a dent­ist or a doc­tor so you don’t know much. BUT you know it’s pain­ing!! You can eas­ily find what’s hap­pen­ing and what you could do imme­di­ately to help out, by con­duct­ing a small 5 minute Google search.  You sud­denly chance across a web­site that has a small book­let or e-booklet describ­ing the exact con­di­tion you’re facing…

Such needs within people need to be brought out by encour­aging them to right down their prob­lems sep­ar­ately and give the inter­net a shot for some solu­tions. The more valu­able answers they get, the more driven they will be to improve their inter­net usage.

#4: Cul­tural And Tech­nical Reluctance

For a lot of indi­vidu­als, espe­cially adults in the UK, using tech­no­logy and innov­a­tion to mod­ern levels of free­dom was never thought of as a bless­ing. In fact, tech­nical advance­ments have remained more of a ‘won­der of the sci­ent­ist’ than a ‘resource of the com­mon man’. There have been numer­ous occa­sions when get­ting office tasks accom­plished has also been some­what of a cop-out from the inter­net by say­ing ‘that’s not the usual way things were done’.

Such a per­spect­ive leads to cul­tural reluct­ance and tech­nical incom­pet­ence that hinders con­nectiv­ity and web proficiency…work becomes detached.

What Can Be Done: Allow people to have their own per­spect­ive of tech­nical free­dom over their per­sonal lives as well as encour­age social con­nectiv­ity over the web. Have them work more in cloud based office envir­on­ments for which employ­ees who are chal­lenged, are some­what forced to adapt to the cloud. In the pro­cess, they will start using the inter­net more effi­ciently and their basic inter­net skills will improve at a breath­tak­ing pace!

And finally…

Today’s post was really inspired by all the updates that are hap­pen­ing over on Google and how some people I speak with have (I won’t name not even over a pint of Guin­ness) poor inter­net skills — I think they would also agree with that statement.

With Google chan­ging / updat­ing prac­tic­ally every­day at the moment I won­der how these people are going to catch up as well as digest the pleth­ora of new skills that are required to take advant­age of what the web can deliver …?

Well, one thing will come out from it, new train­ing courses — but then again, those will be out of date the minute they start…

Ask Your Friends on Google

EDIT 21÷1÷2012 00:02 and as if by magic Google adds Ask Your Friends, although not appear­ing for every­one — yet — this is could well be Google’s answer to edu­cat­ing the masses on New Search Techniques…

Image via

Check out Danny Sul­li­van’s post on
“Ask On Google+” Links Appear­ing In Google’s Search Res­ults for a great read on what to expect…

Final edit (at least for today) 21-1-2012 02:37

I’ve been check­ing to see how long the delay was before the ‘Ask Your Friends’ star­ted appear­ing within search res­ults and I make it 2 hours 5 mins… not bad Google not bad at all…


SEO, social con­tent and sig­nals advoc­ate, closet geek (not fully fledge), writer, speaker, & blogger.

Founder of NOD3x ( — Social Net­work Ana­lysis, know­ledge graph ana­lysis application

Lee can be con­tac­ted by email: here

Comments are disabled for this post