The Austrian Computer Society (OCG) presented a new study of computer skills in Austria on Tuesday. For the study, Austrians were tested on their basic knowledge of operating a computer. And for the first time, they were also tested to see how well they can actually apply their theoretical knowledge. A total of 1,260 Austrians between the ages of 15 and 60 participated in the test, which was conducted on the Internet by the market research institute meinungsraum.at from January 21 to February 12.
The study showed that Austrians are very well equipped with computers and devices that can connect to the Internet. About 74 percent of the respondents own a laptop computer, and 69 percent a smartphone. Tablets are not as common, and only 31 percent own one. Even fewer people (18 percent) have a smart television. In total, 66 percent have WIFI at home. At work, 72 percent use a desktop computer.
The computers are primarily used to read and write e-mails (88 percent said “frequently”), and 65 percent of the respondents use their computer frequently for online banking. About 50 percent of those polled use social media platforms frequently, and another 29 percent occasionally. In terms of social media use, the dominant platform is Facebook, but YouTube has the broadest coverage among the population. Only 7 percent of those asked do not use the online video portal at all.
Computers are especially important at work. Some 51 percent of Austrians spend at least half of their time on the job at a computer. The higher the level of education, the greater share of work is completed with a computer. About 74 percent feel that computer skills are “very important” or “rather important” for their profession. But how well were the Austrian participants really able to use computers? The study compared how good the respondents felt they are with their actual skills.
About 60 percent feel that their computer skills are “good” or “very good” in general. When asked about their Internet skills, 84 percent said “good” or “very good.” But a practical test showed clear discrepancies. The test software Sophia was used for the study and required users to solve specific problems on their computer.
“We did not expect to see such a great discrepancy between the participant’s own assessments and their actual skills,” said OCG secretary general Ronald Bieber about the results. While 94 percent said that their general computer skills are at least average, the practical test showed that the actual skill level was poor to very poor for 61 percent. The level was similar for Internet skills. While 98 percent felt that their skills are adequate, only 51 percent scored very good, good, or average.
It was interesting to see that the results were distributed nearly identically throughout all age groups. Between 7 and 9 percent scored “very good” among the 15 to 29 year olds, 30 to 49 year olds, and 50 to 60 year olds. Between 22 and 38 scored good to average in the test, while 55 to 68 percent came in at “poor to very poor.”
A job for the education system
As the study shows, people who have had special computer training generally scored better than average. Some 31 percent of the respondents had a certificate, and 45 percent had completed the European computer driving licence (ECDL). The OCG is the Austrian certifier for the ECDL and sees the results of the study as proof that more computer skills need to be taught.
“This is a clear call for us to improve education in this area,” Ronald Bieber said. Things need to be stepped up in the schools. But improving the teaching of computer skills in school, which is often criticised, is not the only issue: “We also need to impart stronger computer skills when we train our teachers.” The level of knowledge about computers is good among Austrians, but people are not always able to apply this knowledge.