Literacy advocates in Ottawa say teaching people to read and write has had to incorporate technological literacy too, as more services move online.

A lack of literacy can be compounded by a lack of skill with technology, said Kae McColl, the president of the board of directors of non-profit group People, Words and Change, which provides free, one-on-one adult literacy tutoring.

"People who can't read passably well, struggle to use the Internet or keep up with online shopping," said McColl. "Many of us do online banking, and many of us pay our bills online. And if you're not really familiar with the use of the words, you can't really take part."

McColl said the issue is only going to become a greater challenge as more services move online.

"It will become more complicated as our lives become more demanding of us," she said.

Conquering language and technology

Hamid Ayoub, a graduate of the People, Words and Change program, came to Canada in 2001. He said it was seven years before he decided to conquer the English language, and it was technology where he needed the most help.

"When I called for the assessment I don't feel comfortable with reading even my emails," said Ayoub. "If you can't look up a word, you can't find anything on the internet."

Ayoub was one of the graduates of the program at the group's third annual breakfast on Friday.

Encouraged by his success, he has now applied to enrol in university, and he said his wife is now taking literacy classes with the group.