Defining the ICT sector and ICT-related professional profiles and skills
ICT, ICT skills and ICT-related professions are broad issues – both in terms of defining the ICT sector and related professional profiles.
The OECD definition of the ICT sector (based on manufacturing and services) was altered in 2006/2007, mainly by removing the element of manufacturing industries in the move toward a tighter definition:
“The production (goods and services) of a candidate industry must primarily be intended to fulfil or enable the function of information processing and communication by electronic means, including transmission and display.”
In the same context, the OECD report also mentions the relevance of ICT goods and services outside the ICT sector, for example in other sectors such as general government and businesses. Here, output may be ICT products intended for sale or for own use. Moreover, in-house software development work (“own account software”), may be of interest to some businesses outside the ICT sector and for general government organizations. The EC report on Women in ICT mentions education, employment, health, environment, government, business and entertainment as main areas in which ICTs are considered to be changing agents. The report also names the sub-areas of higher education, convergence, practices and organizations, cyber-sciences, computer assisted learning, privacy and security, biomedicine, biometrics, enabler of socio-economic development, innovation, healthcare, communication environment and, most recently, crisis management. This shows the broad relevance or even ubiquity of ICT today and its manifold areas of application.
ICT-related professional profiles and skills
As mentioned above, there is a broad spectrum of professional profiles in the field of ICT, many of which have developed in recent years. The CEN Workshop Agreement on European ICT Professional Profiles, published in 2012, gives valuable insights in this area. The Agreement is the result of the Workshop on ICT Skills realized by the European committee for Standardization (CEN) proposed by the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS), the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) and the ICT sector. Although the Agreement is not an official standard developed by CEN and its members, it serves as reference document for national bodies and gives a good, easy-to-understand and up-to-date insight into ICT job profiles and related skills.
Another important result of the Workshop on ICT Skills is the eCompetence Framework (e-CF), a reference framework of 36 ICT competences that can be applied and understood by ICT users and supply companies, the public sector, and educational and social partners across Europe. It is intended to support the definition of jobs, training courses, qualifications, career paths, formal and non-formal learning paths, and certifications in the ICT sector and serves as a shared reference for national, European and global ICT vendor and user companies as well as for qualification and certification providers.
EU key competences for lifelong learning: “digital competence”
Another point of reference related to ICT skills in Europe is the key competence 4 as set out in the document “Key Competences for Lifelong Learning”, published in 2006. According to this document, “digital competence involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. It is underpinned by basic skills in ICT: the use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet.” Sound understanding and knowledge of the nature, role and opportunities of Information Society Technology (IST) in everyday contexts (personal, social life and at work), including main computer applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, databases, information storage and management are mentioned as essential knowledge. It is important to have an understanding of the opportunities and potential risks associated with the Internet and communication via electronic media (e-mail, network tools) for work, leisure, information sharing and collaborative networking, learning and research. Individuals also need to understand how IST can support creativity and innovation, and be aware of issues surrounding the validity and reliability of the information available and of the legal and ethical principles involved in the interactive use of IST.
When it comes to the skills required, digital competence includes the ability to search, collect and process information and apply it in a critical and systematic way, determining relevance and distinguishing the real from the virtual while recognizing how the two are connected. Individuals need to have the skills to use tools to produce, present and understand complex information and the ability to access, search and use Internet-based services. Individuals must also be able use IST to support critical thinking, creativity and innovation. Using IST requires a critical and reflective attitude toward available information and the responsible use of interactive media. Active engagement in communities and networks for cultural, social and/or professional purposes also develops these skills.
- European Commission 2010, p. 12
- European Commission 2010, p. 15
- OECD 2011, p. 59
- OECD 2011, p. 60
- CEN 2012, p. 6-7. See for further information www.ecompetences.eu
- Key Competences for Lifelong Learning – A European Framework, 2006, p.7
- Featured, for example, in the Eurydice report 2011 on Key Data on Learning and Innovation through ICT at School in Europe