The PIAAC study looked at competency in problem solving in technology-rich environments (PSTRE). We call this ‘computer skills’.

The following results summarise what is shown in the graph below, explaining the number of people who achieved each level of competency:

  • 25 per cent (4.2 million) were not able to be classified for competency in PSTRE. This was because they opted for completing their assessments on paper rather than using a computer.
  • 13 per cent (2.2 million) are below Level 1 – a very low level of computer skills
  • 31 per cent (5.3 million) are at Level 1
  • 25 per cent (4.1 million) are at Level 2
  • 3.2 per cent (540,000) are at Level 3 – the highest level of PSTRE.

Computer skills graph

Source: Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

What does PIAAC mean by problem solving in technology-rich environments?

PSTRE is defined as the ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks – computer skills.

The assessment focuses on the abilities to solve problems for personal, work and civic purposes by setting up appropriate goals and plans, and accessing and making use of information through computers and computer networks.

What do the skill levels mean?

The levels increase in complexity and difficulty, so a Level 1 is very low, while a Level 3 is high. The following is a summary of the skill levels as explained in the PIAAC study.

You can read the full explanations of the skill levels here.

Level 1

At this level, tasks typically require the use of widely available and familiar technology applications, such as email software or web browsers. There is little or no navigation required to access the information or commands required to solve the problem.

Level 2

At this level, tasks typically require the use of both generic and more specific technology applications. For instance, the person may have to make use of a novel online form. Some navigation across pages and applications is required to solve the problem. The use of tools (e.g. a sort function) can facilitate the resolution of the problem.

Level 3

At this level, tasks typically require the use of both generic and more specific technology applications. Some navigation across pages and applications is required to solve the problem. The use of tools (e.g., a sort function) is required to make progress toward the solution. The task may involve multiple steps and operators.