9. Skills and jobs in the digital economy


This module summarises Chapter 9 which examines the increasing role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the workplace, and policies that can support the development of the skills necessary for workers and firms to thrive in the digital economies emerging in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. It highlights the need for policy makers to develop a comprehensive and coherent approach to expanding connectivity, encouraging learning, activating digital skills and promoting their use, while measuring progress and managing the effects of the digital economy on the reorganisation of businesses, skills and jobs around the world.

Explore this module

Main policy objectives
Tools for measurement and analysis
The LAC region
Leading good practices


Main policy objectives

The evolving landscape for skills and jobs highlights the need for policy makers to develop a comprehensive and coherent approach to expand connectivity, encourage learning, activate digital skills and promote their use throughout their populations, while measuring progress. This is an ongoing process (Figure 9.2).

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Tools for measurement and analysis

Surveys and statistical studies outside the region can be good models for policy makers building initial data collections.

  • Connectivity data. Governments need information on connectivity across schools, public access centres, and throughout the population in general. Policy makers have an incentive to promote digital skills, but efforts will be less effective if proper infrastructure is not in place. Understanding where the gaps are can help policy makers target specific priority areas for support.

  • Other infrastructure data. Data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) on electricity penetration and data on school electrification from UNESCO are important inputs in policy making. Countries that do not already collect and submit such information could look for ways to move in this direction.

  • Computer access. A key input in policy making is information on access to computing resources. Mobile phones have become important access terminals, but computer skills will remain important tools for workers throughout the economy for the foreseeable future. Data on access to computers often comes from population or business surveys (see Chapter 10).

  • Job and skills surveys. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and PIAAC studies are important tools for measuring skills, and digital skills in particular. Involving more LAC countries in both studies would be a good way to assess recent developments, both domestically and internationally. The US O*NET is one of the best sources for data on skills required for different occupations. They provide useful information for policy makers who would like to highlight growth trends over the next five to ten years, share the information with students and teachers, and adjust academic strategies accordingly (O*NET, 2010).

  • Research on ICT usage and educational outcomes. One important area of academic and policy research, including the OECD’s PISA study, has attempted to assess the complex relationship between ICT usage and educational outcomes. International research offers some insights, yet country-specific factors may play an important role. Domestic studies can help policy makers find the best ways to integrate ICTs into education.

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Overview of the situation in the LAC region

State of connectivity

Connecting schools has been a key policy goal for many governments, yet there is relatively little comparable information about the number of schools connected to high-speed broadband in the LAC region. However, the level of connectivity in schools varies considerably between primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. Among countries responding to the OECD/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) survey, primary schools were the least likely to have an Internet connection, while levels of connectivity increased through secondary, tertiary and university levels. The low level of connectivity among reporting primary schools indicates that many children may be subject to digital divides in access, potentially putting them at a disadvantage in developing digital skills.

State of developing skills

While some countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, have promoted ICT skills, the majority of countries in the LAC region appear to be active proponents of e-learning. A high percentage of countries (92%) reports having an initiative to promote e-learning or tele-learning in the country (Figure 9.8). One key element of these policies is to make classroom content available online for wider dissemination. Roughly 86% of countries report policies to create and disseminate content to the general public.

A lower proportion of countries have implemented e-learning projects to train teachers how to integrate digital learning in the curriculum. These include Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica. By contrast, roughly 20% of countries report that they have no plans in place to provide teachers with digital skills.

State of measurement

ICT jobs account for up to 6% of total employment in OECD countries, and the percentage is growing. Accurate data on demand for ICT workers helps policy makers target specific markets or segments of the population. In 2015, only 43% of respondents in the LAC area reported gathering information on ICT jobs in the economy. In a related area, only about half of countries gather data about job matching and job search. Despite the high number of countries reporting initiatives to promote e-learning, less than a quarter have a survey in place to gather data on e-learning adoption and use. As a result, countries lack the means to assess the level of success of e-learning programmes. In the LAC area, the Centre for Studies on the Development of the Information Society ( is a reference centre for the production of indicators and statistics on the use of ICTs in Brazil. has been conducting national surveys on ICT use in schools since 2010 and leading ICT measurement partnerships in the whole LAC region as an official UNESCO centre since 2012 (, 2011).

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Good practices

First, it is important that policy makers develop a comprehensive strategy to address issues related to skills and jobs in the digital economy. The OECD Skills Strategy (OECD, 2012c) provides a systematic framework that helps countries identify the strengths and weaknesses of their national skills systems, to benchmark them internationally and to develop policies that can transform better skills into better jobs, encouraging economic growth and social inclusion.

The OECD Skills Strategy provides a framework for developing, activating and putting skills to use. This chapter adds to this framework the elements of expanding networks to institutions and measuring progress. Four categories are identified as being crucial for public policy action: connect, learn, use and measure (Figure 9.10). This section provides examples of good practices to assist LAC countries with the development of skills and jobs in the digital economy.


Improving connectivity is a fundamental step for making sure that the economic benefits of the Internet are within the reach of individuals, businesses and government. Key among connectivity goals are often targets to extending broadband access to tertiary, secondary and primary schools throughout the country. In some cases, these connected schools are the first to go online in the entire community and become an “anchor” tenant, supporting the expansion of future commercial products and boosting the acquisition of digital skills by the population.

Skills development

Once networks and hardware are in place, they can be used as tools for learning and skills development. In the past, much of the emphasis was placed on connecting schools, and less attention devoted to building digital skills. Evidence suggests that infrastructure investments are necessary but not sufficient conditions for promoting digital skills and learning. Hardware needs to be complemented with content, teacher training and guidance on pedagogical uses (Arias Ortiz and Cristia, 2014). Recent OECD work shows that schools have yet to take advantage of the potential of technology in the classroom to tackle the digital divide and give every student the skills needed in today’s connected world (OECD, 2015b).

Skills activation and effective use

Once networks are in place and people have the necessary skills, these skills must be activated and used. Activation policies encourage people to supply their skills to the labour market, particularly by reintegrating newly skilled workers outside the workforce, or retaining skilled workers. Policy should also focus on transitioning to efficient use of ICTs throughout the economy, which requires both specialist and general ICT skills. This section of the Toolkit provides examples both promote both the activating and using skills.

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Introduction •  Regulatory frameworks and digital strategies •  Spectrum policy •  Competition and infrastructure bottlenecks •  Extending broadband access and services •  Affordability, government charges and digital inclusion •  Convergence •  Regional integration •  Skills and Jobs •  Business uptake, entrepreneurship and digital content •  E-health •  Digital government •  Consumer protection and e-commerce •  Digital security management •  Privacy protection


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