The Digital Revolution: Navigating the Ethics and Competencies of Media and Information Literacy

Wednesday, 08 November 2023 |
The Digital Revolution: Navigating the Ethics and Competencies of Media and Information Literacy

Wong Lai Cheng | Manager (Publication) | SEAMEO RECSAM


In recent years, digital and new media technologies have experienced significant growth. The advent of these media technologies have revolutionised the ways in which we inform, educate, and organise ourselves, bringing unprecedented opportunities for expression and access to information. These platforms allow us to easily search for information, maintain social contacts and to create and share information. Our society are not only media consumers, they can also be active media producers as long as they have the skills that enable them to participate fully in this new media communication environment.

In this digital era society, it is about constructing and validating content and information. Many people spend a lot of time searching for news and information online, the digital spaces also enhance the information sharing process, both positively and negatively (Wok et al., 2012).

According to United Nations (2022), youth are the driving force of connectivity globally, with 75% of 15 to 24- year-olds online in 2022, compared with 65% for the rest of the world’s population. This scenario has created unprecedented opportunities for them to communicate, learn, and socialise, while exposing them to new ideas and more diverse sources of information.

As of April 2023, there were 5.18 billion internet users worldwide, which amounted to 64.6% of the global population. Of this total, 59.9% of the world's population, were social media users.

The recently published UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) 2023 Report revealed that only around half of 15-year-olds in OECD countries are able to tell facts from opinions. When these platform opens for all to create and share information, the rise of disinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories have gained ground and we must massively upscale efforts to enhance the competencies of people of all ages to think critically in digital spaces, and to understand the algorithms that underpin them.

The lack of awareness about Media and Information Literacy (MIL), leads people to think that “if it’s on the Internet, it must be true”. In this context, we need to empower people with MIL. Educators also play a critical role in helping to ensure students leave school with the skills needed to not only be critical media consumers, but also thoughtful producers of mediated messages.

UNESCO (2011) identifies MIL competencies as the ability to ethically and effectively locate, assess, and utilise needed information; comprehend the functions of media and information providers; evaluate media content critically; and interact with them for self-expression, life-long learning, and contemporary content production. MIL in digital spaces refers to the ability to critically access, analyse, evaluate, and create media and information content within digital technologies and online platforms. It encompasses a range of competencies and skills necessary for navigating the vast and overwhelming digital landscape, making informed decisions, and engaging responsibly with online content.

The annual Global Media and Information Literacy Week helps raise awareness of the need for an international effort towards helping all people become informed creators & consumers and is a crucial platform for rallying worldwide stakeholders to remind people of the importance of MIL agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society. This year's theme for MIL Week, which will be held from 24 – 31 October 2023 is: "Media and Information Literacy in Digital Spaces: A Collective Global Agenda".

UNESCO highlights that integrating MIL in digital spaces enables citizens to:

  • Know their rights online, and to respect the rights of others such as their rights to privacy, and digital rights, such as freedom of expression and access to information;
  • Be more critical about how they use information, digital technologies and media and thus become more resilient to hate content and disinformation that stir conflicts;
  • Develop more agency and autonomy to self-protect and to protect others, thus staying safe online;
  • Appreciate how transparency and accountability of digital platforms and media can facilitate openness and dialogue in digital spaces;
  • Know how to access information online and what ethical steps to take when access is blocked;
  • Meaningfully engage in dialogue and promoting equality and non-discrimination online which include gender equality and respecting the perspectives of others while advocating for peace and inclusive digital spaces.

In addressing these issues, governments, digital platforms, civil society, schools, libraries, academics and media must link up efforts.

Localiq. (2023).What Happens in an Internet Minute in 2023.

Wok, S., Idid, S., & Misman, E. (2012). Social media use for information-sharing activities among youth inMalaysia. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 2(11), 1029-1047. DOI: 10.13140/2.1.2299.4560.

UNESCO. (2023). Global Education Monitoring: Technology in Education Report. (2023)