From muggles to magicians

A recent BCS press release has once again highlighted the vital role digital literacy plays in society. In the July article, Jon Buttriss, CEO of BCS L&D, makes a clear point: ‘The internet is materially embedded in all aspects of daily life and as a result there is an unprecedented requirement for people of all ages to have digital literacy skills.’

Having read this, I recalled a particular “highlight” of mine from the hefty report published earlier in the year by the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills. Some 42 pages in, they referenced the UKForCE’s (UK Forum for Computer Education) categorisation of the UK workforce in terms of its digital capability - breaking down our near-30-million-strong working nation into the following four categories; digital muggle, digital citizen, digital worker, and digital maker.

Yes, thanks to Ms Rowling, muggle is now a word used to describe someone who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill. But what especially stood out for me was the subsequent definition of digital muggle; for them “digital technology may as well be magic.”

At the other end of the scale, digital makers were defined as having the “skills sufficient to build digital technology.” I was struck by the huge void separating the muggles from the magicians, and the responsibility we have in diminishing the chasm between the two.

It also got me thinking about the level of apprehension - or downright fear - that those who fall into the former category must feel towards technology, let alone the thought of having to “master the magic”, independently and to benefit the workplace. They represent a significant section of society, with the forum estimating digital muggles make up 7% of the UK workforce - that’s over 2 million people.

BCS has been making huge strides towards closing the void. With the introduction of algorithms and basic programming in the classroom as early as key stage 1, the new Computing curriculum now anticipates the rise of modern-day magicians who’ll help us keep the UK at the forefront of technology innovation. But just as importantly, it’s ensuring every student leaves school digitally literate.

As Jon stated in the recent press release, the new curriculum means pupils are ‘able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology - at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.’

The news from Europe is promising - in the European Commission’s 2015 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), the UK is ranked sixth overall out of the 28 EU member states. However, our position drops to 9 when it comes to the category of Use of Internet.

So our nation has some way to go, but with user-friendly qualifications like ECDL and Digital Skills, we’re well equipped to support learners as they embark on their magical journey.

Excerpt from the House of Lords report:
‘Digital muggle’: 2.2 million people (7% of the workforce); “... no digital skills required - digital technology may as well be magic”.

‘Digital citizen’: 10.8 million people (37% of the workforce); “... the ability to use digital technology purposefully and confidently to communicate, find information and purchase goods/services”.

‘Digital worker’: 13.6 million people (46% of the workforce); “... at the higher end, the ability to evaluate, configure and use complex digital systems. Elementary programming skills such as scripting are often required for these tasks”.

‘Digital maker’: 2.9 million people (10% of the workforce); “... skills sufficient to build digital technology (typically software development)”.

Ref: UKForCE, ‘Submission to Maggie Philbin’s Digital Task Force’ Dec 14

Comments (1)

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  • 1
    Martin Brown wrote on 1st Sep 2015

    The House of Lords report classification doesn't match my experience or the numbers in the "human capital" section of the link cited.

    I reckon 10% are muggles (or more if you count people who can't install their own home PC with printer/scanner/software reliably).

    Then there is a category of "digital user" ~20% who just about gets by streaming music buying on Amazon but has no idea how any of it works.

    40% "digital citizen" strikes me as about right.

    25% "digital worker" and 5% "digital maker" wold be where I would draw the skills boundaries.


    They have about 90% users (ie 10% non users), 73% with basic skills and just 4% in ICT. That matches my own experience pretty closely.

    The House of Lord report through UKForCE is claiming a level of public competence in ICT that does not exist or being kind is over stated.

    Martin Brown

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November 2017