Buy a train ticket at the vending machine, pay the grocery at the do-it-yourself cashier or pay your taxes online. For many people, these are simple gestures, some even everyday; for others, they represent major obstacles. According to a study recently published by the Federal Bureau of Statistics, a quarter of the Swiss population aged 15 to 88 had no competence in the use of basic digital programs in 2021. A percentage increase over the years: 2017 were 15%, 2019 17%. “These people in Switzerland are really many,” confirms Cecilia Bianchi, Regional Manager of the Italian Swiss Association of Reading and Writing based in Bellinzona. Since 2017, the association is not only engaged in reading and writing, but at the request of the State Secretariat for Education (Sefri), it has expanded its ability to act on all basic competencies, including digital and everyday mathematics.
‘Do not be surprised, but worry’
“It’s a fact that does not surprise us, but it worries us because it means there is a lot of work to be done in terms of awareness raising. Our association wants to make the cantonal administration aware of the figures published by the Federal Bureau of Statistics has been preoccupied with the issue of digital skills, and asking to accompany people in difficulty ”. These difficulties are easily seen in society every day: “Even from the feedback we have received from social workers, regional employment consultants or municipal branch staff, we can confirm that many people with these skills have difficulties. have got.” , had noticed Whites. This sets boundaries in everyday life where distributors and vending machines are becoming more frequent and users are having difficulty in going to the counter or using the traditional checkout area in the shops. There are several factors that influence the phenomenon: age, in the sense that the more it progresses, the more difficulties increase; the work done or being done and familiarity with computers or other technological tools in the workplace.
‘More and more dependent on others’
An example of many: in the coming weeks, documentation for the 2021 tax return will be coming to Ticino’s homes. ”Over the years, the compilation procedure has changed and the possibility of converting paper to digital format. “The change has certainly accelerated and facilitated the work of taxpayers and officials, but at the same time it has left behind those who struggle with computer programs,” Bianchi notes. for individuals, but the trend is clear. “The transition to digital is increasingly affecting the whole of society. Those who lack basic skills in this field inevitably see their dependence on others grow: in short, they increasingly seek external support, which does not help self-esteem, but rather increases social exclusion. This is also why we believe it is important to keep up with the current trend, ”explains the Regional Manager of ‘Reading and Writing’.
To support people with difficulties and basic skills, the association offers literacy, reading and writing courses with small groups, as well as calculation and measurement courses for social enterprises, as well as awareness meetings for professionals in daily contact. with people showing digital flaws. “We are paying attention to the fact that the problem also affects native speakers of Italian,” Bianchi stressed. Many people, despite attending school in the country where they live, struggle to write and understand texts. We often talk about illiteracy back then. In fact, as we age, we may lose the basic skills that were acquired a long time ago. One in six people has similar problems: they can read a newspaper editor without understanding its meaning; or can not write a letter. On the other hand, the more a person’s education, the less he or she will suffer from a deficit later on; the more he reads and writes in his profession, the less he loses his experienced skills. “Training is needed, and so are digital skills,” says Bianchi.
The simple language
The reading and writing association collaborates with Pro Infirmis’ simple language service. It is a translation service that processes texts involving professionals from the sector and an audit team according to the rules of simplified language. The service raises awareness of the importance of language simplification, precisely because not everyone can understand the texts they read. “Everyone involved with a very large audience should pay attention to the simplicity of the message, the form in which it conveys it, as well as the simplicity of the website – says Cecilia Bianchi – for access to Information also to guarantee people with reading difficulties “.