Digital Literacy: a Crucial Tool for Building a Functional Digital Economy in Ethiopia

The lack of adequate skills in Ethiopia limits the adoption of digital initiatives in different sectors, preventing communities from accessing financial services and reaping the benefit of other private and government provisions. 

Digital literacy refers to a set of cognitive, socio-behavioral and technical skills required to effectively comprehend, create, and communicate information digitally using technology.

The terms digital literacy, digital competence, and digital skills overlap and are often used interchangeably.

Digital literacy is important to use the internet safely and access digital services, virtually providing opportunities to most sectors.

Digital skills equip users of devices with the know-how to connect to the internet and navigate digital platforms at the foundational level.

In addition to providing access to fundamental services, digital skills and connectivity opens access to information which is helpful for people to make better decisions, generate content, influence and earn a living.

It goes without saying that utilizing and inventing advanced technological solutions and specialized levels of digital skills are required to arm users with the necessary ability they need to actively participate in economic activities.

Based on industries and geographic areas, digital skill frameworks define different sets. 

The Digital Literacy Global Framework (DLGF)– Produced by UNESCO in June 2018, the framework proposed to measure one of the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – Quality of Education outlines 26 digital literacy competency areas grouped into 7 core requirements.

Digital skills frameworks across the world

There are several digital skills frameworks used around the globe. While some of these are used internationally, some are specifically curated to meet the needs of specific countries.

Internationally used digital skills frameworks include

Report show that in Africa, there is a lack of a comprehensive framework for digital literacy, with only a few countries having developed one. 

Many emerging economies adopt international/enterprise frameworks. For instance, Thailand, Indonesia, and South Africa have each adopted two enterprise frameworks as their national base. Others tend to develop context-driven frameworks

The World Bank’s Country Action Plans for Digital Skills for Digital Economy identified  European Union (EU) Digcomp 2.1(Digital Literacy Global Framework (DLGF) for all occupations) and  – EU’s E-competence framework for ICT occupations can be used or adopted as benchmarks in Africa.      

Digital literacy in Ethiopian context: level of competence, importance, and barriers.

In 2017, adult literacy in Ethiopia was 51.8%, a tremendous improvement over the past decades. Still, the gender gap remains at a sizable 14.8%.

Considering that illiteracy is seen as one of the major barriers to developing digital skills, Ethiopia still has a long way to go.

Limited data is available on the status of the digital skills of Ethiopian citizens as the country lacks a standardized digital skills assessment system and is not included in several reports.

For instance, Ethiopia is not covered by the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking and Global Skills Report by Coursera. The country is also not reviewed by World Bank’s Digital Economy Initiative for Africa (DE4A) country diagnostics.  

However, based on the Global Competitiveness Report of 2019 by the World Economic Forum, Ethiopia has ranked 137th in ICT adoption and 100th in digital skills among 141 countries, behind Gabon, Zambia, Mauritius, Mali, Lesotho, Botswana, and Uganda. 

Some of the main barriers that hinder citizens from developing or enhancing digital skills in Ethiopia are:

●      Low literacy rate and poor knowledge of English.      

●      Low electricity coverage, limited internet access, and poor connectivity.

●      Low affordability of ICT infrastructure (and digital devices).

●      Lack of standardized digital training and skills assessment systems.

●      Lack of demand-driven training programs.

●      Lack of apprenticeship and internship opportunities in the digital field.

●    Absence of specific regulations to encourage use of technology and digital content.

The lack of adequate skills in Ethiopia limits the adoption of digital initiatives in different sectors, preventing communities from accessing financial services and reaping the benefit of other private and government provisions. 

The lack of digital skills also poses challenges in finding jobs and accessing different opportunities, which can be a significant hindrance to achieving the country’s ambitious plans to revolutionize its digital economy. 

The fact that the nature of on-jobs skills are shifting is also another incentive for nations to develop their citizen’s digital skills. According to a 2019 study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), over 230 million jobs will require digital skills in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

“Digital skills are crucial to enable current and future workers (especially youth) to meet the employment requirements of a digital economy, embrace innovation and help maintain a competitive edge. For the general population, digital skills enable meaningful access to government (through E-Government portals), businesses (through E-Commerce), and society (through social media),” reads a section on the Digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy.   

Digital literacy, skills framework and strategies in Ethiopia

Ethiopia doesn’t have a comprehensive national digital skills framework yet. But the government has recognized the importance of digital literacy in driving the economy. As recognized by the Digital Ethiopia 2025 plan, the Ministry of Innovation & Technology (MiNT) is undergoing development of a digital skills framework and action plan. This digital literacy framework will focus on an inclusive digital ecosystem giving emphasis to marginalized societies, namely women and rural communities.

While the framework is underway, the Ministry has been implementing several programs. It conducts its own training, forms partnerships with other training providers, or acts as a facilitator for other institutions that wish to conduct their own training related to ICT skills development. 

Under a dedicated directorate, the Ministry is implementing several programs in partnership with various entities with the aim of making 70% of Ethiopians digitally literate by 2025.

Current Initiatives and Programs

Digital futures Initiative, Digital Ethiopia Learning (DEL) – UNCDF, IBM, MiNT

Under the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s (UNCDF) Digital Futures Initiative, IBM and the UNCDF launched a free digital literacy online learning and innovation platform. The Digital Futures Initiative is also implemented in several countries.

The trainings, delivered online, covers emerging technology like data science, Artificial Intelligence, and blockchain, which beneficiaries can access online for free. 

Digital Transformation centers – ITU, MiNT, Cisco

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Cisco have launched Digital Transformation Centers (DTC) Initiative to enhance the digital skills of Ethiopian citizens through capacity building. 

DTC is established to provide basic, intermediate, and job-oriented digital skills training to women startups, MSMEs, and citizens living in remote areas. 

The DTC initiative was launched by ITU and Cisco in September 2019 to be implemented across all continents. It was initiated to ensure increased participation of all people in digital economies by narrowing the digital divide.

These centers are established in public universities, including Jimma, Semmera, Bahirdar, Medawelabu and Diredaw universities, among others.

The Ministry of Education is also another government entity that is working on increasing digital literacy. A Digital Skills Country Action Plan for higher education and TVET was developed by the then Ministry of Science & higher Education (MOSHE) in 2020, which was later transferred to the Ministry of Education after MOSHE was folded.

The plan aims to create a digitally skilled workforce by developing digital skills in Higher Education and TVET institutions (intermediate digital skills for all occupations; and intermediate, advanced and highly specialized digital skills for ICT professions.) This is expected to indirectly impact the overall school system by increasing the demand for digital skills among students and preparing new (pre-service) primary and secondary school teachers.  

The ministry has also created a collaborative project with Huawei Ethiopia and ICOG Anyone can Code (iCOG ACC) to launch the DigiTruck project. The program works to close the digital skills gap in Ethiopia by training students in rural areas out of mobile classrooms.


In September 2022, Meta Boost Ethiopia was launched in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor & Skills, Summer Media and Meta in collaboration. 

Meta Boost offers online courses in digital skills tailored for micro, small and medium-sized businesses. Modeled after a pilot program that had managed to train over 7,000 businesses. The program aims to equip small businesses with the necessary skills needed to scale their online visibility on Meta’s platforms.

Are there any digital skills/literacy programs we should mention? Comment here or reach out to us at  

2 Responses

  1. Please, I want to work on building the Digital literacy rate of Ethiopia, I am studying Msc in Digital Marketing and Specialty with E-commerce, Which makes me to be an expert on this field.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *