Computer Literacy vs Computer Proficiency

By Dr. Ali Farghaly

While literacy is a well-defined concept often described as the ability to read and write in one’s native language, the term ‘computer literacy’ is often used to describe acquiring basic computer skills. This definition assumes that there are agreed upon basic computer skills that almost everyone should acquire. These basic computer skills are supposed to be sufficient to enable any individual to navigate the computer and perform non-specialized tasks successfully. However, there are different definitions of computer literacy showing that computer literacy may vary spending on the specific needs of the individual seeking to be computer literate. The following are examples of common computer literacy definition:


Wikipedia defines computer literacy as “the knowledge and ability to use computers and related technology efficiently, with skill levels ranging from elementary use to computer programming and advanced problem solving.”(,


Others defined computer literacy as “the ability to efficiently use computers and modern technology.”.


Computer literacy is also defined as “someone’s knowledge and ability to use a computer and other Information and Communications Technology (ICT) effectively.”


Computer literacy is also defined in terms of levels: Basic, Intermediate and Proficient with specific skills for each level


At, computer literacy levels are defined as follows

Computer literacy is often assumed to be a problem in the developing countries because of the low level of education and income. However, a recent study shows that it is also a problem in some sectors of the advanced countries such as the USA, Canada, UK, etc. The OECD, a club of mostly rich nations, recently published a survey on adult skills, which captures information on proficiency in literacy, numeracy and computer skills.

In today’s world I suggest we aim at computer proficiency rather than computer literacy for everyone. This is because almost every job now requires proficiency in at least one or more skills of commuting. For example, data entry jobs require proficiency in file and data manipulation whereas accounting jobs require proficiency in spreadsheets, data visualization and statistical software. In contrast, social network evaluation and search specialists require mastery of web processing and manipulation, query expansion and webpage scrapping. We have passed the stage of computer literacy and we should aim at computer proficiency.