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European licence drives stateside

IN a move that might be likened to selling microchips to Silicon Valley, a Dublin company is about to offer a computer literacy qualification in the United States. The US - the land which turned IBM and Apple into household names - may soon also be rich territory for the Computer Driving Licence Foundation.

Its licence has become the world's largest and most successful computer literacy scheme since its launch in 1997.

With some 1.3 million participants in more than 50 countries, the Dublin-based foundation is set to launch an International Computer Driving Licence pilot programme in the US later this year.

Gene Gage, chief executive officer of ICDL-US, said the qualification was unique and more relevant than other computer literacy programmes that focused only on training and assessment.

With the trend towards demonstrated results and accountability in America, he said the licence indicated the holder had a thorough understanding of how to use a PC at work as well as at home.

"If someone has the ICDL certificate hanging on their wall, they know their stuff," he said.

Candidates must pass each of seven modules at one of 8,000 test centres to get the licence. It is available in Australia, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, as well as 23 European nations.

The US pilot will be run in a variety of institutions, from secondary schools, community and four-year colleges, to companies, government departments and community organisations. Colorado State University is expected to become the first university participant in the programme.

Mr Gage said awarding a certificate made the licence more valuable than IT training alone. "This makes the effort far more valuable to both the ICDL-holder and potential employers," he said.

The qualification has become the standard for employers evaluating the computer literacy of current and potential staff. It has many benefits to employers, just one of which is reducing the number of calls to IT help desks for very simple equipment or software problems.

European Computer Driving Licence: www.ecdl.com

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