The 21st century is known as the information age, with connectivity and access to information and services only a few simple clicks away. Technology has been dubbed as the ‘great equalizer’, bringing access and convenience to those in remote areas — but does it truly provide equality for all?
Social and digital inclusion matters
Numbers tell a story. In the UNECE region, the generational gap brought by digitization is apparent. Older populations aged 54-74 use the Internet significantly less than people aged 25-54.
With more services gradually migrating online, this means that a significant slice of the population may not be able to access certain services and risks missing out on opportunities to interact with others and contribute to society. For this reason, it is important to close the generation gap and enhance digital inclusion across generations. UNECE member States are actively addressing the challenge.
Intergenerational learning and digital empowerment
Austria’s project “TiK-Technology in brief-Tablet for everyone” aims to address the digital inclusion for older populations through intergenerational learning approach. Young “Tablet-Trainers” (volunteers aged 16 to 30) offer digital literacy courses to senior citizens. Participants include older persons from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and women with a low level of education. By the end of 2018, more than 2,000 people had participated in the modules and another 1,000 participants have taken the course programme, including the oldest participant who is 97 years young!
Germany has made it a focus to advance digital literacy by supporting courses for older persons, and mentoring partnerships between the young and old to help eliminate barriers and promote social interaction among its citizens.
In France, the national plan for inclusive digitalization includes various projects like the “digital pass” which provides free digital training to senior employees. Perhaps even more innovative is the “digital bus”, which crosses the region of Aquitaine to offer free 3-hour training sessions on how to use IT tools such as sending emails, filling out tax forms etc. to seniors.
Access to Lifelong Learning and Inclusive Education
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote life-long learning opportunities for all (SDG4). By the same token, the 2017 Lisbon Ministerial Declaration which sets the region’s policy priorities in the field of ageing also encourages access to lifelong learning opportunities for later ages. Promoting e-inclusion is a great way to foster and achieve social and digital inclusion for all by providing more learning opportunities for senior citizens in different sections of society.
Learn more about the initiatives on digital inclusion in Austria, France and Germany:
These policy examples were presented by UNECE member States at the Roundtable on SDG 4 “Learning without Limits” at the 2019 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region.
On 16 April they will inform discussions during the Focus Area on Education, Training and Lifelong Learning and Capacity-Building at the 10th session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in New York.