Information literacy in today’s society

MAGGIE Kambai.

THE 21st century has been marked as the information age because of the information explosion and the many sources of information.
There is too much information which should be regulated, people therefore need information literacy skills to be able to use information effectively.
The United States National Forum on Information Literacy defines information literacy as the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, access, evaluate, and effectively use that information to solve a problem.
The scope of information literacy includes computer literacy, information technology literacy, internet literacy, digital literacy, media literacy and more.
Why then is information literacy important in today’s society?
Here are some of the reasons why information literacy is important in our society today:
One of the primary goals of the Vision 2030 document is to see an information and knowledge based society by 2030. In efforts to achieve this goal, the Ministry of General Education directs huge sums of money towards the implementation of ICT programmes in both rural and urban schools of Zambia. It is a great achievement to the nation when pupils and citizens are empowered with information literacy skills particularly computer skills, as this will help bridge the digital divide.
It is therefore important to encourage communities to also play an active role in supporting this endeavour.
The government too should provide the necessary equipment and infrastructure to see to it that most there is a well-informed citizenry that fully participates in national development by 2030.
It is every country’s desire to achieve an inclusive society which is a society based on respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural and religious diversity, social justice and the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
When citizens know how to identify, locate, evaluate, analyse and effectively use information to solve their problems, then achieving an inclusive society becomes easy.
For instance: when women and young girls are information literate, child marriages, teenage pregnancies, will reduce drastically as they would understand the consequences that these vices have on families and the society at large.
In the same vein, women will know their rights and understand their potential as a result equality will be achieved. The National Gender Policy of 2014 clearly indicates that most of the challenges that the country faces are caused by lack of information and sensitization programmes.
There is need therefore to have programmes that address different issues and educate citizens on the rights of both children and adults. This should be done in the languages of the intended areas. Therefore let everyone engage.
Another example is the stigma and discrimination that the people with disabilities and special needs face. These are people, like any other and come to think of what this country would be if the information needs of these people are met. Information literacy skills are needed for them to boost their confidence and fully participate.
Let schools continue to promote learning styles that meet their information needs. Let libraries and community information centres teach their members on how best to handle our friends with special needs.
Information literacy points people to media literacy. As the saying goes “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom” In todays’ world we have a lot of information, ranging from fake news, destructive information and unworthy information.
It is unfortunate that most of the people cannot differentiate the good from the bad information.
But an information literate person is able to use his or her skills to come up with the best information and apply it accordingly. Information literate people are able to evaluate newscasts, advertisements, business, development plans, and political campaign speeches, and make rational decisions.
The other reason why information literacy should be for everyone besides bridging the digital divide, achieving an inclusive society and media literacy is because our eyes are fixed on the bigger picture which is societal growth.
Most societal transformation has to be through large scale development and this greatly depends on knowledge creation, access to information and exchange of ideas nationally and globally.
Today, societies are moving towards the knowledge-based economy, where knowledge has become the main driving force of the economy and a tool for development, with this, we see the emergence of the e-governance strategy, the SMART Zambia program and other programs that help us achieve growth.
When we have information literate people in the country, majority of citizens will be healthy, farmers will produce healthy quality of products, and also use appropriate farming practices.
We will have a Zambia where all citizens are equal, literate, and respect their rights. Above all, information literacy nurtures citizens towards self -reliance and this is a great tool in fighting poverty.
It is important for every community and individuals to develop interest in acquiring information literacy skills. Let communities and the government work hand in hand with libraries, librarians and information specialists to provide these skills for the betterment of the nation and societal growth. Information literacy is a prerequisite for participative citizenship, social inclusion, and the creation of new knowledge, personal empowerment and learning for life.
Vision 2030 gives an emphasis on “accelerating development efforts towards Vision 2030, without leaving anyone behind”. Therefore let everyone engage.
The author is Academic librarian and blogger.

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