Dispatches: New solutions

To make the most of knowledge-based industries, the IT industry needs to push general IT skills out wider into the communityComputer-based training is big business. Companies reap millions of dollars a year selling mostly CD-based services that let users boost their computer skills in their own time.

It's big business for the companies selling the solutions and, frankly, big business has more often than not been the exclusive target for their attention.

After all, server-based licensing allows you to sell across hundreds or even thousands of seats in a single customer organisation, and is a very cost-effective way to market. At the more individual level of training however, solutions have proved more problematic -- read expensive.

And yet as a community, our reliance on general PC skills is growing tremendously.

We need to push basic skills out further into the general community if we are truly to take advantage of growing opportunities in knowledge-based industries.

The Australian Computer Society certainly recognises this. It recently launched the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL), an initiative aimed at raising the level of computer literacy across Australia.

The licence is based on the internationally recognised European Computer Driving Licence, which operates in 21 countries around the globe as either the ECDL or ICDL, and the qualification is designed to help a person drive a computer with the same ease as they might drive a car.

Such an initiative rewards users who find themselves with suddenly very transferable skills, employers who now have an effective base line measure for assessing employees for job candidates, and also helps the ACS push its message of skills accreditation.

Training courses at colleges or TAFEs are one solution for individuals who can't get such training in the workforce, or who cannot afford to purchase CBT systems which were designed and priced for the corporate market. New solutions are emerging. Internet or online-based training is the obvious candidate.

(Warning -- VESTED INTEREST ALERT)

Recognising this need, IDG has partnered with the Australian based international training provider KNOWHOW Solutions to offer people wanting to improve their office productivity skills access to a comprehensive suite of training products.

These are based on KHOWHOW's existing corporate offering with three important provisos. Firstly, the product has been stripped of much of the additional functionality required for corporate networked environments, and then tailored to individual needs, without compromising the training experience.

Secondly, this individual-based product is priced accordingly, and thirdly, the product will be sold over the Internet, allowing people or small businesses in more remote areas to access the software.

As well as selling over the Internet IDG is also distributing the KNOWHOW solution to over 100,000 computer users via CD-ROMs in its PC titles, PCWorld and PC Buyer.

The KNOWHOW deal, like IDG's earlier deal with online recruitment specialist JobNet, is demonstrative of the sorts of packages consumers will increasingly be able to get online.

Information specialists will increasingly partner with each other to deliver ever more comprehensive packages to internet users, at prices which were unachievable until the advent of the Web.

Andrew Birmingham is the Chief Operating Officer of IDG Communications.andrew_birmingham@idg.com.au

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