On the Information Society: Voices from the South list, a young Canadian, Yaacov Iland identified the need for skills he called "information practices" that people needed to operate effectively on the internet.
Here is my list of essential skills that "information literacy" demands.
a) Each person having his or her own data. Primary experience and notes, records and measurements based on that experience. Journals, diaries, bench notes or memories. You've probably broken a few things, and repaired a few things (sometimes badly). Having your own data is your filter against collecting a lot of rubbish from Google. Having your own data gives you a reality standard against which the claims of other people can be measured. Does this story make sense, given what I already know?
b) Collecting secondary data from the Internet, radio, books, television or in conversations and letters, and filling the most interesting documents of that in some logical way. Access to these records is desirable. Using Google fits in here.
Of course the danger today is the endless soruces of secondary data that seem to be available. Much of it is repetitive. Some of it less than reliable. You have to decide what to pay attention too. Choose wisely, you become what you choose focus on and think about.
c) Make an effort occasionally to find the pattern that this data offers. Trying to understand it, to turn it back into information. You need to learn what the data means. Reading material doesn't mean you "know it". Choosing what to "know" and integrating it with what you knew before is a task that takes time and effort.
Professor Graham Nuthall also tells us that if we need to learn and remember something, repetition in the first two days is critical to being able to putting the information into your long term memory. Re-read your notes tomorrow.
d) To do something with the new ideas you are generating, to talk about it, to make plans, do something practical, or communicate what you are thinking, maybe by email. Doing something practical is a good test. If it breaks, go back to the beginning. Quite a bit needs to be known about the subject in order for anyone to use the new understanding effectively. Educational specialists often speak about learning as though immediately after the lesson you can have full understanding. Often when you learn things, full understanding of what you know comes weeks, months, even years later.
e) This may lead to publication in some form. (If fact "d" is also a form of publication) An essay, a web page, a programme of action, maybe even a book. Or perhaps your own game, or music composition or artwork or designs or …… whatever creative activity you can imagine.
It matters not a scrap where you begin. Computers, family history, football, or aerospace engineering, it’s all one ball of wax, you can only start where you are. What interests you now? You will go on from there to a dozen other things once you develop the skills required. In fact the whole spectrum of lifelong learning depends exactly on these skills which I'm calling "information literacy".
A person who has these information literacy skills will be connected with several communities of practice. Membership of these communities will provide new data for consideration and a continuing flow of challenging questions to ponder. Within such groups the process of lifelong learning seems the natural thing to do. Over the next 20 years people will slowly learn how to apply information literacy skills using the internet. The effect will be to change lives, to change communities and the reinvent to range of possible histories for the world as a whole.
Encouraging widespread use of the Internet in a community is a commitment to a process where the outcome is uncertain. Who can tell what people making free choices will choose to do? Will they use their access rights to become terrorists or criminals or to trade pornographic images or to encourage a rebellion? They might just do that. Of course authorities are uncomfortable with that notion. But far more likely people will hope for better things and will try to learn about topics that interest them, they will improve their language skills, they will learn about other people, they will learn some technical skills, they will learn some things they can use and apply in their daily lives.
If there is some reason to have hope for a better future there is also every reason for people to make the best use of the Internet. Surely in every country the social connection and goodwill toward each other. The desire to sustain a community in which people can work for a better future is a massive positive force that needs to be enabled to improve the our lives. A few malcontents cannot whip up a problem unless there is just cause. If NGO’s can be effective in a community, if people have the ability to improve their lives, if there is hope for the future, there will be no just cause to be concerned about. Trust the process of wide peer to peer discussion. It works slowly but surely.