Connected Nation presents Digital Talent Index, identifies key workforce skills needed for job placement
Dallas, TX (October 31, 2023) - On Friday, October 13, the Connected Nation (CN) research team presented its novel Digital Talent Index (DTI) at the Digital Inclusion Research Forum – hosted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Dallas, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. The event brought together researchers, practitioners, funders, and policymakers to discuss the latest research innovations in digital inclusion, emerging methodologies, and best practices in the sector.
The DTI is a metric born out of CN’s Connected Community Engagement Program. In the process of connecting communities across Texas (alongside other states), we collected survey responses from residents interested in improving their local broadband situations. These surveys asked about a number of topics, including broadband adoption, affordability, device ownership, and digital skills, as well as various demographic information. The DTI utilizes the data collected on digital skills to construct a means to measure digital literacy that emphasizes entry-level workforce development skills.
Digital skills matter for individuals, businesses, and communities in different ways. At the individual level, workers who attain these skills have a comparative advantage in the labor market to secure higher paying jobs. Moreover, while digital technologies are being increasingly incorporated into all sectors of the economy, workers with digital skills have the unique ability to apply for remote positions that afford them the independence to live wherever they would like.
Businesses need these skilled workers to compete against other firms and maximize their revenue. Finally, as workers earn more money and businesses earn additional profits, communities where this work takes place see increased tax revenue that can be reinvested.
The Connected surveys asks respondents to rate their skill level on various hardware devices, software applications, communication tools, and other online activities. Respondents can select “not interested,” “I need to learn,” “I know a little,” “I’m comfortable with it,” or “I could teach this.”
From the responses, CN’s researchers identified 14 skills that many entry-level positions require, and assigned numbers to each response so that higher values correspond to higher skill levels. These skills are identified in the table below.
After assigning them a value, these skills were aggregated into the Digital Talent Index (at the individual and county level) using two different measurement models. The map below illustrates how counties in Texas with more than 100 survey responses compare using the weighted composite score.
In order to assess whether the metric truly measures workplace digital skills competency, CN conducted a series of plausibility probes – statistical tests of hypotheses that should be true if we constructed a valid measure. While these were simple analyses, the findings seem promising. At the individual level, we found that individuals with bachelor’s degrees or higher had higher digital skills, and that higher digital skills were associated with stronger job search skills and a higher likelihood that the respondent uses the internet for work – all in line with theorized expectations.
At the county level, as expected, higher digital skills were associated with higher economic development, lower poverty rates, and lower unemployment rates. Given these preliminary results, we’re optimistic that this data does, in fact, reflect entry-level workplace digital skills.
The conference presentation represented the early stages of this project. Moving forward, we hope to explore additional plausibility probes, conduct robustness checks, and identify relationships between digital skills competency and various demographic indicators. Once finalized, we hope to find a way to illustrate this information in a way that could be useful and accessible to practitioners and policymakers.