Mapping Digital Competence: Towards a Conceptual Understanding

Talk of competences is all the rage in the training and education fields, so the introduction of another one may seem like more than enough of a good thing. In an increasingly digital-determined world, however, it is not surprising that « digital competence » has also entered into the vocabulary. But what exactly is « digital competence »? Which concepts and ideas are used to describe it? How should we understand the term? These are the questions which the recently release report, Mapping Digital Competence: Towards a Conceptual Understanding, seeks to answer.

The report, produced by the IS Unit at JRC-IPTS, is the result of a project to develop guidelines for supporting digital competence development in Europe which was launched on the request of DG Education and Culture. The report reviews needs for digital competence, different concepts used to describe and understand it, as well as related policy approaches and measurements. Based on these, it suggests a conceptual model encompassing:

  1. Instrumental knowledge and skills for tool and media usage;
  2. Advanced skills and knowledge for communication and collaboration, information management, learning and problem-solving, and meaningful participation;
  3. Attitudes to strategic skills usage in intercultural, critical, creative, responsible and autonomous ways.
According to the report, instrumental knowledge and skills are a precondition for developing or using more advanced skills. The objective of the conceptual model is to highlight the various knowledge, skill and attitude areas that should be considered when developing digital competence. The proposed structure allows for flexibility and for the concept to be tailored to different target groups of digital competence learners and users.

Author: Kirsti Ala-Mutka
EUR Number: Technical Note: JRC 67075
Publication date: 10/2011

The report can be downloaded at