Book lot on table.

The Importance of Literacy in a Digital World

Written by Danika Amandari Djuanda, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia

Defining Literacy

Once upon a time…” Countless individuals across the globe know this phrase all too well, one bringing into life fairytales, folklores, and fables. We may remember moments delving into pages of imagination or hours spent becoming architects of new worlds and sculptors of dynamic characters. Many have read stories, and many have written ones of their own, that is, those able to read and write—those possessing literacy.

However, literacy transcends mere words on a page; it is more than reading and writing. In this age of technology, it is “a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.” (UNESCO). Reading, writing, and more extensive literacy skills are a gateway to knowledge and a tool for empowerment. It opens doors to opportunities and liberation, fosters critical thinking, and enables individuals to navigate the complexities of our modern world.

The world has undergone a swift and profound shift towards digitalization in recent years. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst, as the digital realm became the primary means for communication, employment opportunities, access to comprehensive education, and social interactions.  While this digitalization offers numerous benefits, it has highlighted a glaring issue: the digital divide.  Millions of people, particularly in low-income and marginalized communities, lack access to the internet and digital devices, making it difficult for them to acquire essential skills and resources.

A Global Situation

As you are reading this, you possess the profound privilege of literacy.  In addition, as you read this online, you have the profound benefit of access to the digital world. Across the globe, a staggering 763 million individuals, predominantly women, continue to grapple with illiteracy (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).  Moreover, as of 2021, an estimated 37 percent of the global population, equivalent to a staggering 2.9 billion people, have yet to experience the Internet in any capacity (United Nations). These are not just numbers but stories of missed opportunities, silenced voices, and unrealized potential. International Literacy Day, celebrated every year on September 8th, serves as a powerful reminder of the stark reality of this global issue and the urgent need to address it.

Bridging the Divide

This year’s International Literacy Day is celebrated under the theme: “Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies”. It is a day to renew our commitment to achieving universal literacy and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has access to quality education and the tools to become literate.

Achieving universal literacy is a complex and multifaceted endeavor that requires the collaboration of governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and individuals. International Literacy Day serves as a reminder of the importance of global partnerships in addressing this issue. Governments must prioritize literacy education in their agendas, allocate resources, and implement policies that promote access to quality education. Furthermore, non-governmental organizations and businesses can play a significant role by providing funding, resources, and expertise to support literacy programs. 

What about us? Individuals can contribute by volunteering (perhaps at a local literacy program or library), advocating for literacy, and supporting initiatives that provide books and educational materials to those in need. As we commemorate International Literacy Day 2023, let us remember that literacy is not a privilege but a fundamental human right. Together, we can create a world where everyone can read, write, and access the knowledge and opportunities they deserve. International Literacy Day 2023 is a call to action to build a more literate, equitable, and inclusive world for all.


UNESCO. (n.d.). International Literacy Day.

UNESCO. (2023). What you need to know about literacy.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (n.d.). Literacy. Nations. (2021). ITU: 2.9 billion people still offline. United Nations.