Digital Literacy : Responsibilities of Citizens

Digital Literacy : Its importance, predicament and Malaysian legal implications.

By Muhammad Amanullah bin Mohd Rashidi

Instagram Username: averroes_313

University: Universiti Teknologi MARA Shah Alam

(1.0) Introduction to Digital Literacy 

(1.1) What is literacy  

We would have to understand the term literacy, before we determine what is digital literacy. According to Ayhan (2016), he states that literacy is a situation which stimulates logical contemplation of mankind in a chain to develop data production, memory and identification aspects.

As humans, our literacy is measured by our writing and reading skills. Literacy is the driving force that shapes a utopia of intelligence and civilized conduct. Writing and reading in turn is influenced by technological advancements, introduced by our ancestors and cultures.

Humanity created printing machines, books, scriptures, scrolls and disseminated other literary works to every edge of our world, through pen and words!

Those who wield and have competent literacy command are those belonging to the higher echelons, religious elites, governmental administrators and businessmen or the wealthy alike. Generally, those who are successful as well as those who seek to be successful.

(1.2)    What is digital literacy

Digitalization is the process of translating elements of multimedia, interaction and data into a digital form. When we digitize literacy, it becomes, ‘digital literacy’. Sounds obvious, but writing and reading becomes a digital form when we convey it on various technological platforms, such as computers, smartphones and laptops.

These modern machines have cultivated a new generation of societies who utilize the digital world; the internet to gain knowledge, improve their talents, share their ideas and expressions, while also serving to search for job employments, boost economic prosperity and a rostrum to discuss or debate.

According to Spires et al. (2017) intellectual cognitive functions related to digital literacy can be divided into three basic skills that is; (1) locating and consuming digital content, (2) creating digital content; and (3) communicating digital content.

(1.2.1) Locating and consuming digital content

It is imperative for internet users to be able to find and search for resources or materials online which determine whether they are digitally literate or not. Many of these can be extracted from Google Scholar, adding pdf in every search, news portals or subscribing to online academic databases.

Academia and Researchgate is also a great start for those aspiring to allow an easier pool of informative access to those conducting research and studies.

(1.2.2) Creating content

 Internet users’ or netizens’, digital literacy is also dependent on creating content. Educational and informative content could be created through visual representations, such as videos or illustrations. Popular platforms used by teachers would be Youtube, Powtoons and PowerPoint Presentations.

(1.2.3) Communicating digital content

Information procured or to be shared is achievable by communication. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Facebook are mediums to communicate data. Though, there are infinite other communicative tools to share information. Schools in Malaysia are stepping into the beacon of the 21st Century learning environment, a rejoiceful yet perilous future that lies ahead. 

(2.0)    Problems and challenges to digital literacy

(2.1) Insufficient funds and poor awareness on its benefits

The internet is vast in which there are no territorial hurdles to limit human interaction over digital machines. Students with access to digital technologies have better quality in education. However, across the strata of societies, countries and demographics, they lack access to adequate use of digital technologies.

Many students would lose opportunities as there are profuse numbers of e-books, articles, educational videos and library databases available. Physical books, though still relevant, are costly and heavy to bring around places. Many traditional institutions or communities still abscond digital transitions when it comes to education.

Digital literacy must be introduced as early as kindergarten and primary school, as children at a very young age must be adapted to new technologies. As previously explained, creating short clips or films would tremendously increase participation and motivation for children.

In turn, children and students are able to collaborate and brainstorm ideas together. This is proven to be a pedagogical method to reach toward the youth, while enhancing their innovative and creative mindset. This would surely prepare them for the employment world as they grow older with the necessary skills equipped from an early age.

Sadly, not every place in Malaysia, especially the rural areas have the amenities to digital needs. In Sabah, there are still certain areas that still have poor internet connection. One story involved a university student in that state, who climbed a tree to partake in an examination. This sent shockwaves through social media, as people have become more aware of digital literacy during the pandemic.

(2.2) Ethical and moral issues 

Another problem would be that certain segments of netizens could not distinguish between what is ethically or morally right in the digital world. Ethics and morality differ from cultures, economic standings and communities around the world. Regardless, based on human conscience, there are matters that we could all agree on to what is right or wrong.

Even being digitally literate, irresponsible individuals take the advantage of the skills and digital capabilities they have to exploit and exert advantage over others. There are innumerable examples, including spreading viruses, trojans, hacking, phishing, denial of service attacks (DOS), blackmail and more.

There are multiple laws to protect people from these malicious attacks, but herewith are significant examples;

(2.2.1) Penal Code; 

Section 503 is for criminal intimidation to threaten to harm a person’s body, reputation or property which section 506 is the punishing section.

Section 503 is interpreted to include online modes of communication as well, via the internet for instances. In the Muhibbah Engineering (M) Sdn. Bhd case, the claimant was dismissed from their job for threatening bodily harm to his two superiors via handphone.

The Macau Scam (cheating) has gone undeterred as activities related to it is an offence under section 420. Viewing the Nebolisa Olisa Hillary incident in 2016, a Nigerian man disguised as an Arab-English male to cheat a retiree off her money on Facebook. She was deceived to transfer RM10,7950 to him through Maybank. The perpetrator was punished accordingly under section 420.

Section 130J(1)(a) and 130JB(1)(a) are for offences related to soliciting or giving support to terrorist groups for the commission of terrorist acts and in possession of items associated with terrorist groups or terrorist acts.

In PP v Aszory bin Achoi, the accused was alleged to have supported Daesh through his two Facebook accounts and had possession of 43 images of Daesh on his mobile phone. He was then convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, which the accused appealed.

(2.2.2) Communication and Multimedia Act 1998;

Section 233(3) of the Act includes the element of ‘intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person’ has to be corroborated. Any matter that is obscene, indecent, false or offensive is for the court to interpret to determine if it fulfilled that mentioned element.

This provision is wide enough to regulate many online unethical conducts, that is body-shaming, cyber-bullying and texting sexual messages. It is not denied that this law is too vague and can include many situations which can fall under this provision.

In Yasmin Norhazleena case, despite not being a criminal case and the claimant case being dismissed as the sexual harassment committed by her superior through email was not a violation to the Ministry of Human Resources Code in 1999 for sexual harassment. It was her who voluntarily retired.

A broader perspective to this case, the victim should have lodged a police report on this matter under section 233(3) of the Act. The emails had sexual innuendos, such as; “When you came my spirit has been lifted tremendously, my emotional side is disturbed. I have this internal dilemma, I won’t be able to function as a human being, that is my weakness.”

(2.2.3) Computer Crimes Act 1997

Under section 4(1)(a), the accused in the Rose Hanida v PP case was convicted for 13 unauthorised access using ID and password belonging to the Department Bank of where she worked, OCBC Bank. She submitted false financial claims which caused RM348,294.81 from the bank to be transferred to her personal account.

(3.0)    Solutions

(3.1)    Funding and support from the public, NGOs and stakeholders

This may be a redundant solution, but increasing tenfold the involvement of the public and non-governmental organizations would increase the chances for better learning opportunities. There should be donations and crowd-funding or online challenges to accumulate money to help students have access to digital needs.

Parents through the PIBG group in their schools should be more proactive and lenient when it comes to funding their school. In turn, the school should make the parents feel confident that the money expended would directly be used only for the exact purpose. Transparency and integrity are the best policy.

The management of educational institutions are sometimes sluggish to channel their funds to purchase digital essentials for their schools and universities. This is due to administrative, contractual and procedural issues which should be settled promptly or much earlier.

Companies such as Frog Classroom and Yes 4G are some of the players that partner with schools and universities to provide digital connectivity. More players need to be present in order to branch out more connectivity across Malaysia.

(3.2)    Reforming teaching methods

Even if money is the main obstacle, would it not be better if the teachers and lecturers were to teach their class holistically?

Teachers and lecturers need to understand that each and one of their students have their own social and financial constraints. Some hail from humble families and those from the affluent. They should not blame their own students for not having good internet or digital needs.

These educators should serve as an example to their class. The educators should take the initiative to bring their own projector, speakers and laptop to be shared in class and interact with their students. Educators should not expect their students to print paper which places financial burden onto them.

Schools that already have computer labs are left neglected with poor maintenance. Computer labs must be given among the top priority and also be a regular class setting. Educators should not be overly worried if their students play video games. Educators need to recognise that video games also contribute to building creativity and ideas, while limiting the time and providing a break time for them to play.

(4.0) References 



  1.  [2009] 2 LNS 0363
  2.  [2009] 3 ILR 75
  3.  [2017] MLJU 1212
  4.  [2018] 9 MLJ 702


  1. Penal Code
  2. Computer Crimes Act 1997 
  3. Communication and Multimedia Act 1998

Journal Articles

  1.  Ayhan, Bünyamin. (2016). Digital Literacy. 10.3726/978-3-653-07022-4/10.
  2.  Chan, B., Churchill, D., & Chiu, T. (2017). Digital Literacy Learning In Higher Education Through Digital Storytelling Approach. Journal of International Education Research, 13(1), 1–16.
  3.  Hussain, J. (2012). Managing cyber Misconduct [2012] 3 ILJ xxx. Industrial Law Journal Article   (ILJA), 1–11.
  4. Medlock Paul, Casey & Spires, Hiller & Kerkhoff, Shea. (2017). Digital Literacy for the 21st Century. 10.4018/978-1-5225-7659-4.ch002.
  6. CHALLENGES. Malayan   Law Journal   Articles,   1–10.                 
  7.  Rahman, Rizal. (2019). CYBERCRIME CASES IN A DECADE: The Malaysian Experience.

 News Portals

  1. Yusof, A. (2020, September 9). Putrajaya to look into Internet connectivity in rural areas, says science minister after Sabah student took exam on a tree. CNA.


  1. Frog Classroom Programme. (n.d.). Frog Classroom.

Yes | Always 4G LTE. (n.d.). Yes.My.