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The digital skill gap: why it matters and how you can get involved in addressing it

There are over 4 billion Internet users in the world[1]. That is higher than the global number of those using something as ubiquitous as a mobile phone[2]. The Internet is wide-reaching, easily-accessible and gradually woven into the very fabric of society. Its impact is significant, its perpetuity undeniable. An intrinsic part of the revolution that is the Internet, is digital advertising. It can certainly be regarded as the engine which drives the free Internet of today. It’s big business for advertisers who see impressive ROI on digital ads, it’s big business for publishers who see growth YOY, for marketeers and creatives who have shifted to this new “binary” medium, for all players involved in the digital ecosystem. It’s big business, still, for privacy-advocacy groups, associations of industry representatives, and whether immediately apparent or not, it’s big business for the end-user who is always part of an economy, one which digital advertising has a significant positive impact on[3].

This takes us to the crux of the problem: digital advertising is a vital cog in the machinery that is the Internet – it creates jobs, it boosts economies, it drives progress. In many respects it is the core of online experiences. However, this whole construction, this vast ecosystem, rests on mere individuals. Until Skynet takes over and AIs replace people, this critical dimension of today’s society rests on the shoulders of highly-skilled individuals in digital. Unfortunately, as with all good things, digital talent is in short supply. The European Commission estimates that by 2020, Europe will suffer from a shortage of around 756,000 ICT professionals[4]. What this translates into, of course, is not only digital advertising falling short of its full potential for a positive impact from a societal point of view, but from an economic standpoint as well. The UK alone is set to forfeit up to GBP 141.5 Billion by 2028 if the skill gap is not closed. For the whole of G20 countries this amount rises to a staggering US 11.5 Trillion[5]. This is made even more acute by the rate at which technology evolves, which means that becoming proficient in one area or another is a constant pursuit.

Before addressing the issue of the digital skill gap, we first need to understand where it stems from. And it is that what IAB Europe and its Education & Training Committee aim to achieve with the Human Capital in the Digital Environment survey. Targeting recruiters, trainers, managers, and those looking to start or transition into a job in digital, the survey asks questions to dig down and root out the key causes of the shortage of digital talent: Is it a matter of an educational system that is not aligned with the demands of today’s job market? Are the candidates misjudging their own abilities? Are employers not willing to meet the expectations of those seeking a job in digital?

So whether you’re in HR, training, involved in the hiring of new talent or are potentially looking for a new career path in the exciting field of digital advertising, donate no more than 10 minutes of your time and take the survey. Its findings will be decanted into a report that will be published in September and shared with all participants.

Of course, this is merely the first step in addressing a critical issue for the industry which often times is only challenged declaratively – with not much being done about it – so if you want to get involved and kept up to date with the work of our Education & Training Committee please contact me.


[1] As of 31 March 2019: https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

[2] As of April 2019, the total number of unique mobile users was 4 Billion: https://www.statista.com/topics/779/mobile-internet/

[3] IAB Europe infographic: Digital Advertising Supports Europe’s Economy: https://iabeurope.eu/research-thought-leadership/iab-europe-infographic/

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/epale/fr/content/e-skills-and-jobs-digital-age

[5] https://www.consultancy.uk/news/18895/digital-skills-gap-could-cost-uk-1415-billion-in-gdp-growth

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