EU Science Hub

Background Review for Developing the Digital Competence Framework for Consumers: A snapshot of hot-button issues and recent literature

This report presents the results of a study of the requirements for developing a Digital Competence Framework in the context of a digital marketplace in the EU. Consumer digital competence is defined as the competence consumers need to function actively, safely and assertively in the digital marketplace. This framework will define the skills, knowledge and attitudes that consumers need to navigate the complex digital environment. The research project to create the Digital Competence Framework for Consumers is a joint action of DG Justice and Consumers (JUST), and the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission’s science and knowledge service. The work, carried out between 2015-2016, aimed to achieve the goals set out by the European Commission in its two recent Communications: “A New Skills Agenda For Europe - Working together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness” (European Commission, 2016) and “A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe” (European Commission, 2015). Both these Communications focus on the importance of citizens’ digital skills and their capacity to participate more deeply in our digital society and economy. The study presented in this report is designed to elicit user requirements in order to support the development of the Digital Competence Framework for Consumers. The study was commissioned by the Joint Research Centre and it is a result of collaborative work between the authors of the report. Further consultation on requirements was carried out with DG JUST in which experts on various topics gave their input and contributed to the text. The literature and the hot-button issues described in this report reflect the state-of-play in 2015, when the study was carried out. The methodology used to clarify the requirements for a consumer digital competence framework had four main steps. First, a ‘broad-but-shallow’ look into important emerging issues in the field of online shopping and advertisement was taken. In this phase of the study, a number of European Commission working documents on the issue were reviewed. The focus was also on current relevant literature, both academic and grey literature. Second, the existing terms and major work in consumer competence was reviewed and links were made to behavioural insights. It emerged that lack of digital competence can make consumers vulnerable in today’s complex digital environment. Third, part of the work consisted of testing the suitability of the existing Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) in an expert workshop to further prompt requirements for the new framework. Lastly, to finalise the process of requirement gathering, a gap analysis was conducted on a number of prominent sources of educational material for consumer competence. The study found that the DigComp framework was a suitable starting point and confirms that it could be adapted to the new context of the digital marketplace. However, the analysis also showed that not all competencies are covered by the existing framework, in particular with regards to emerging digital trends and issues outlined. The final product of the project, the Digital Competence Framework for Consumers, is described in a JRC Science for Policy publication by Brecko & Ferrari (2016). All information is available also at the JRC Science Hub.
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