Analytical paper on digital skills


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of facing the challenges related to digital transformation. It has contributed to accelerate digitalization processes and broadened previously identified gaps in new skills requirements, thus making the digital divide even more evident in the absence of concrete actions. At the same time, this acceleration can be seen as beneficial. Indeed, the pandemic has changed the attitude of people in upskilling and reskilling needs. Implementing successful digital strategies is not only a response to rapidly adapt to the new changed context, but is also a valuable and significant opportunity to improve and innovate the work environment and individuals’ lives. The benefits of digital transformation are tangible. It enables:

  • to enlarge networks and synergies between organizations;
  • to improve the performance of workers who can be more efficient and satisfied, keen to collaborate and communicate using new digital tools, software and methodologies;
  • to increase the quality of the services making them more accessible and usable for end users;
  • to engage customers and building relationships through different channels;
  • to automate processes and make them more sustainable.

In order to achieve these goals, targeted actions are necessary to help people in developing and improving their digital skills through specific education and training programmes shaped to the identified needs and providing the proper technological equipment. 

The organizations active in the field of rehabilitation and support of people with disabilities were strongly hit by the pandemic. The impact of the pandemic has led to questioning the way of working, collaborating and providing services among many EPR members. In some cases, in order to preserve their activities and ensure their continuity during the crisis, many organizations had to move most of their activities online.

Building and improving capacities and skills is a key element to successfully manage transitions moved by technological change, climate change, globalisation, migration and ageing and to tackle rising inequalities. Skills are fundamental not only to foster urgently needed innovations, but also to enable the adoption and diffusion and continuous further development of new knowledge, technologies and resources.

Among social service users, one group at risk of being left behind in the digital revolution is people with disabilities. They represent one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups who are facing many digital barriers. As reported in the publication “An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities”, despite the fact that digital tools can enable people with disabilities to manage different tasks of their daily life and access to the labour market through employment digital platforms, “if they do not possess the required skills, if they find ICTs unaffordable or if digital tools are not accessible, people with disabilities will not benefit from these opportunities and are therefore at risk of being left behind.”[1]

This analytical paper presents the results of research focused on the one hand to analyze the current context of European policies and initiatives aimed at fostering a digital society and on the other to identify the needs and challenges that the social sector is facing in achieving an effective digital transformation in this field.

The objective of this paper is to provide a range of resources, as well as recommendations, for staff working with people with disabilities and stakeholders across Europe to help them improve digital skills,  use of digital tools to improve efficacy of services, with the final aim to contribute to improving  quality of life of social service users.

The research has been carried out at different levels and for different target (NGOs staff, service provision and care, management) to understand and address digitalization skills needs and barriers. It is a result not only of a desk analysis, but also of the contribution that EPR members and key stakeholders have given during the Annual Conference and other relevant events specifically focused on digital topics.

Download the full paper here: Analytical-paper-digital-skills-2020.pdf

[1] “An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities” - A joint publication by Fundación ONCE and the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, developed within the framework of Disability Hub Europe, a project led by Fundación ONCE and co-funded by the European Social Fund.