Nowadays, digital literacy is playing an important role globally. Since the world is changing rapidly, almost everyone applies the digital platform for better lifestyles. Nonetheless, our association, MDCA, has held a zoom live meeting regarding the condition of digital literacy discussing under the topic, ‘Importance of Digital Literacy in further development of Local Digital Contents’, together with the panelists who are already experienced in the respective fields, reviewing the states of digital literacy of our country and suggesting the ways to enhance the digital knowledge of the people.
Our panelists are from literacy related industries. The first panelist is Geek Girls Myanmar, a community of women in tech in Myanmar, was founded in 2014. Wun Zinn is a convenient digital e-book store where we can read the books through mobile phones. The last panelist is from Gandawin Magazine, an up and emerging Myanmar online magazine.
First and foremost, our panelists revealed the stages of digital literacy and which stage that Myanmar has reached so far. To clarify this, there are five stages in the digital literacy category; Traditional literacy, Basic Mobile Literacy, Mobile Technical Literacy, Mobile Internet Literacy and Advanced Mobile Internet Literacy. One of our panelists pointed out that Myanmar is already familiar with the first two stages but the rest depends on the generation and the environment and it can be seen that mostly youths are knowledgeable about the stages of Digital Literacy because they grew up with the internet since they were young. To be more literate, people need to understand the importance of literacy as well as digital literacy so that their behaviors and ways of using the internet will be better and useful.
Sadly, when we talk about the internet, Facebook first pops up into the people’s mind. Thus, people mostly go to Facebook to search for the contents instead of searching them on the proper platforms. They don’t have the habit of reading e-books and using the learning platforms yet. Since almost everyone is on social media more, the government also uses the Social media apps to upload the updated news. It is because there are not enough digital platforms to provide the digital contents.
From the flip side of the coin, a lot of people including the adults are using the internet and Facebook during this Covid-19 pandemic to get the updated news on time. The more the lifestyles have changed dramatically, the more the issues we are going to face. There can be disinformation, cyber bullying, threatening and harassment for the people who don’t know how to use the internet properly.
The government should also set the policies, and the rules and regulations for cyber security. The contents on Facebook influence the people positively yet there can be limitations. People with lower digital literacy knowledge have to double check the information they consume to reduce the misinformation. Thus, it is necessary for the public to become well-educated in this sector. We can build up this culture by adding digital literacy as a major or minor course for the children at schools, giving the necessary guidelines and training since they are young, so they will grow up with adequate maturity for digital literacy. However, most kids of this era have adapted the habit of learning from YouTube and Google, and they have a longer period of screen exposure compared to adults.
Additionally, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has provided the education platform and uploaded the various learning curriculum on that platform. However, people mostly go to YouTube and respective websites for the educational channel and one of our panelists suggested supporting the respective digital platforms that specialise in each field, for example, education.
For the Wun Zinn e-book application, they had a lot of difficulties when launching the platform. As they aim to distribute the local contents digitally to the whole country, the biggest challenge for them was the cost to digitize the physical contents, for example, they had to type the whole book to upload it on the digital platform, etc. In fact, people who like to consume the contents physically in a traditional way are stronger than the ones who read digitally. In the near future, digital will influence the world powerfully; therefore, it would be better if people have knowledge for digital literacy.
As we all know that men have greater awareness about mobile and digital literacy than women. The population of women is 51% but not all of them are from urban areas, some are from rural areas, and some are refugees. Some of them might not have the full knowledge of digital literacy, so workshops for them are crucial in order for them to learn how to use the internet properly. Moreover, people from various ethnic groups can only understand their language and there can be problems in communicating with each other when distributing the digital contents. Therefore, every country must have strong infrastructure regarding the locally related digital contents since the local contents are limited in supply. Furthermore, both the content creators and content providers should generate innovative ways to motivate the people to support the local relevant contents.
In Myanmar, Digital literacy is half-way through and we need more passionate content creators. According to that, it is fundamental that our country should build strong monetization infrastructure for them from the business aspects. Some people can create contents easily; most of them are entertainment based (e.g. Online shopping contents, contents by bloggers, etc.). Here, we can see there are very few professional content creators as well as digital platforms. To be efficient, there should be more relevant local quality contents more than the entertainment based contents. When preparing for the digitally influenced world, well-educated and experienced content creators will certainly be highly demanded.
To boost up the digital literacy role in Myanmar, it would be better if we digitalize the contents from different categories (Art, Literature, Music, Movie, etc.). For instance, we should digitize our local tradition, especially Bagan tradition to let the world know Myanmar. In this case, we should also advance the local contents with the international standards. The preparation for the digital impacts is crucial because digital is here to stay and it will widespread globally in a short period.
In conclusion, if we use the internet properly, we can optimize the digital and can maximize the profit. In the new normal lives, we are going to live together with the digital and we hope everyone can get the digital literacy knowledge from the assessable platforms. As a consequence, the lifestyles of people will be more productive and well-decisive with greater literacy knowledge.