Digital Citizenship in the Workplace

HR Technology

Citizenship. At its heart, citizenship is simply being a member of a state or as a to resident of a city. Underpinning citizenship is a set of rights, privileges, and obligations bestowed upon and expected of each citizen. We typically conceptualize citizenship with our physical lives. In recent years, as technology has evolved and the digital world has become intertwined with our physical world, the concept of digital citizenship has emerged.

The premise of digital citizenship is similar to traditional citizenship: defining the rights, privileges, and obligations for using technology responsibly in a digital world.  Digital citizenship provides a framework to put the issues surrounding technology and that impact everyone in context. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), outlined the nine critical elements of digital citizenship in the 2011 publication Digital Citizenship in Schools by Mark Ribble:

  • Digital Access: Full electronic participation in society
  • Digital Commerce: The electronic buying and selling of goods
  • Digital Communication: The electronic exchange of information
  • Digital Literacy: The process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology
  • Digital Etiquette: The electronic standards or conduct or procedure
  • Digital Law: The electronic responsibility for actions and deeds
  • Digital Rights and Responsibilities: Those requirements and freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world
  • Digital Health and Wellness: Physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world
  • Digital Security: The electronic precautions to guarantee safety

A free excerpt from the text is available here from ISTE for educational purposes that outline each of the nine elements in more detail. Much of the early focus on digital citizenship has been on preparing the younger generation of children to be responsible digital citizens as they enter a highly digital world, mainly through primary and secondary technology education programs in school systems. While preparing people to be responsible citizens before they enter the digital world is critical, so too is investing in developing digital citizenship within all age levels of society.

The modern professional workplace is a highly digital environment faced with numerous challenges and issues. As technology continues to evolve so too will issues surrounding digital citizenship in the work environment. Most organizations do not possess a formal digital citizenship strategy. As a result, numerous workers have received limited, if any, education surrounding digital citizenship issues at their organization.

Successful implementation of digital citizenship programs ultimately requires ownership from leaders within an organization. At the same time, learning & development professionals can play a leading role in advocating for digital citizenship programs and designing, developing, and ensuring the implementation and evaluation of programs within their organizations. While there is a significant investment required to implement a digital citizenship program, as there is with any program, developing responsible digital citizens can save an organization numerous costs and headaches from dealing with unethical behavior in a digital world.

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