Age of the Information-Literate

Stop the clock for a moment. Nasdaq may be taking a cold shower, but the future has never been brighter for the Internet.

Those who are running for cover and sneering at the Internet are huddling in the past. The Internet is big. There is blood on the tracks, sure. That’s a necessary shedding of youthful skin. The Internet is maturing; it’s going to get bigger, badder, and better, and it will blow away those who think they can live and work without it.

Before our very eyes, witness the emergence of the information-literate. The world is at their feet. The future is in their hands. Their hands are at the keyboard, and their eyes are on the screen. It is they who are shifting the present and shaping the future. The Internet is their tool of choice.

Consider the following:

  • According to a recent study by Campus Pipeline Inc., American students view the Web as their second most important resource when deciding what college to go to — the first is their guidance counselors.

  • A study by Keen and Lewis, Mobilio & Associates found that Americans ask an average of four questions per day and spend an average of 8.75 hours per week searching for answers. The Internet has become the top resource for finding these answers.
  • A 1998 study by George Mason University of college graduates found that 95 percent of respondents view lifetime learning as an essential part of their careers.
  • According to a 2000 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, since 1985 the expansion of knowledge-based industries has outpaced gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the developed countries. Knowledge-based industries now account for more than half of OECD-wide GDP.
  • A 2000 PricewaterhouseCoopers report found that intellectual assets now account for 78 percent of the total value of American S&P 500 companies.

Literacy used to be about basic reading and writing. No longer. The International Adult Literacy Survey defines literacy as “the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities, at home, at work, and in the community — to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”

A 2000 report by the OECD entitled “Literacy in the Information Age” stated that “workers are increasingly required not only to have higher levels of education, but also the capacity to adapt, learn, and master the changes quickly and efficiently.”

The information-literate:

  • Recognize and understand the value of information

  • Read a lot, are inquisitive, and are always willing to learn
  • Have the ability to isolate where new information is required to solve a problem
  • Feel comfortable using information technology
  • Have the ability to locate content resources efficiently and effectively
  • Have the ability to evaluate content critically and competently
  • Have the ability to use content accurately and creatively
  • Have the ability to create quality content
  • Are independent-minded but realize that collaboration is the best way to acquire and develop knowledge
  • Have the ability to communicate what they know in an effective manner

As organizations and countries seek to increase their information literacy, it is vital to understand that technology is only part of the solution. True information literacy reflects an attitude and skill set that puts information at the top of our agenda on a day-to-day basis.

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