Computer Literacy

Why It Is Such an Important Skill

Large group of business people at computer seminar.
••• skynesher / Getty Images

The ability to use a computer is important in our everyday lives—to check emails, look up restaurants and directions, and ask Google all sorts of questions. Many people walk around with tiny, powerful computers in their pockets or purses and call them smartphones. If you aren’t part of the smartphone crowd and have managed to avoid having a desktop or laptop at home or in your office until now, don’t worry. It’s not too late to become computer literate.

Why Computer Literacy is Necessary

There is a good chance that, since you are reading this article online, you have some hands-on computer experience. However, there is a large group of people for whom surfing the Web was their first contact with a computer and many of those people have gone no further than that. Being able to query Google for nearly any answer we might need is an important computer skill so you're already further along the path towards computer literacy than you thought. If you struggle to use a computer beyond basic search engine inquiries and are not sure where to turn for such seemingly basic, well-known information, you’re in the right place.

Commerce and Daily Life

In most places of business, a computer is standard. At the bank, computers are used to look up your account information. Computers are used at the auto repair shop to assess your car. You’ll have a hard time finding books in the library by looking in a card catalog as they rarely exist anymore. To find your book at the modern library branch, you must use the computerized database. Doctors' offices utilize computers to store patient information.

Employment

The point is this: no matter where you find employment, there is a good chance a computer will be a basic tool you will have to know how to use. It is in your best interests to start off computer literate. It will help you get a job and it will help you advance in your career. Computer literacy does not mean you need to know how to use every single piece of software you may encounter. It does not mean you need to know how to write programs or network computers. You just need to know the basics—like how to save and open a file, how to use a word processing program, and how to send and receive email.

Being computer literate means having some sort of level of comfort around computers rather than a look of fear and a feeling of foreboding.

How to Become Computer Literate

Basic computer courses are offered by most continuing education programs. They are usually reasonably priced and conveniently scheduled. These courses can generally be found in your local school district or community college, on evenings and weekends.

Career retraining programs often offer computer courses for free or at a low fee for those who qualify. Check with your local Labor Department Office for more information on these programs.

There are also online courses and tutorials available. Don't have a computer? Don't worry. Many public libraries allow patrons to use computers with Internet access. GCF Global Learning offers free online lessons.