OPINIONS Content needed to bridge digital divide for the elderly


Content needed to bridge digital divide for the elderly


23:36, June 11, 2021

Seniors exercise in a community rehabilitation center at Hemu New Village in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (Photo: China Daily)

With new generation information technology, such as the mobile internet, becoming an important medium of communication, how to better integrate elderly people into the digital society is key to accelerating the digital transformation.

China now has 264 million people, or 18.7 percent of its total population, aged 60 or above.

Elderly people facing problems because of the emergence of new technologies isn't something new, but the problems have aggravated by the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has necessitated the extensive use of digital technology for accessing health codes as a green light to enter many places, not to mention traveling from one place to another.

While online booking, online payment, mobile payment and other digital services have made life more convenient for many, such services have also alienated senior citizens, with the "digital divide" becoming more pronounced.

In order to bridge this "digital divide", the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology introduced two documents in December and April specifying norms for website and mobile applications to lower the threshold, making it more convenient for senior citizens to use smart devices.

Technological advancement can effectively reduce the difficulties elderly people face in operating smart devices, but it isn't always technology that stops senior citizens from using smartphones or other mobile devices.

Technological barriers aside, senior citizens also face a cultural barrier. For example, although the number of elderly internet users is growing, there isn't enough high-quality internet content tailored for them.

The young people who have grown up with the internet are called "internet aborigines". Because the young dominate the internet world, the apps and service of major internet platforms and content producers are mainly for young people.

Therefore, technical difficulties apart, internet content needs upgrading to help integrate senior citizens into the digital world. Senior citizens should not be relegated to just being consumers. It is precisely this kind of stereotyping that has prevented internet content from being produced for senior citizens.

Internet content producers should know what the elderly understand and like to see, thus breaking down the cultural barriers across generations.

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