Vodafone Ireland Foundation yesterday (26 April 2022) announced the launch of face-to-face digital skills training classes for over 65-year-olds in gigabit hubs and Public Broadband Connection Points* (BCPs) across the 26 counties. There will an investment of more than €2 million over five years in the Hi Digital programme, and more than 26,273 sessions have been initiated by older people online to date.
A first of its kind, five-year initiative, Hi Digital was developed by Vodafone Ireland Foundation alongside charity partners, Active Retirement Ireland and ALONE, to support older people who lack digital skills, through online and in-person training. Topics include: Understanding Smartphone features and essential online skills that help enhance daily life, keeping in touch through WhatsApp and social media, planning trips, researching interests and hobbies, online shopping, entertainment and education on online safety.
Hi Digital’s in-person training is available in a multitude of community venues across the country. People can register for a free in-person class by calling 1800 20 30 30 or visiting www.activeirl.ie/hidigital. The peer-led training is facilitated by grass roots volunteers in Active Retirement Ireland. ALONE will also train individuals from organisations that support older people to become Digital Champions through online and in-person workshops.
The programme was developed to address Ireland’s poor standing for basic digital skills among over 65s, as revealed by a report from Vodafone Group and Deloitte. The progress towards the EU’s Digital decade ambition shows that while Ireland had one of the highest increases of adults in Europe equipped with the basic digital skills year-on-year, there is still a long way to go to meet the 2030 target of 80%. Digital literacy levels in 65+ year-olds in Ireland are among the lowest in Europe, and well below the EU average (19% v 25%), with the divide worsening for those in rural locations.
The pandemic has exacerbated this problem as it saw more communities and services move online at an unprecedented rate, with many older people being effectively shut off from essential services. In addition to being disadvantaged on a practical level, during the Covid-19 pandemic older people have become more at risk of depression and loneliness.
Cyber safety is key part of the programme. It will help older people manage the digitalisation of everyday tasks, such as financial transactions and accessing public services, by giving them the confidence and know-how to safely conduct these activities online and avoid any potential threats.
Liz Roche, Head of Vodafone Foundation said, “This next phase of our Hi Digital programme will see us reach a larger demographic of people as we rollout to 26 counties with in-person training for the first time. We are looking to build on the already phenomenal response to the initial launch of our Hi Digital programme online. We will now be able to reach an even larger cohort of older persons who can and will benefit from the platform to stay connected and manage activities online in a safe and secure way, with confidence.
“As we further emerge from the pandemic, we are delighted to be able to offer these in-person classes within *BCPs and Gigabit Hubs which are located in most towns and villages across Ireland, meaning no one should be far away from the opportunity to participate in the free classes. We believe this initiative, as it grows from strength to strength, will help in combatting isolation and loneliness, reducing the generational digital divide that exists and its effects on the mental health of older people.”
Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement Ireland, said: “We’re so pleased to announce the national rollout of the Hi Digital face-to-face digital skills classes. Through this next stage of the Hi Digital programme, our digital ambassador-led, in-person classes will further support older people’s participation online. This will help ensure they have the appropriate access and skills to engage with digital services, along with expanding the possibilities on offer to them from the digital shift.
“The Hi Digital programme is about giving older people in Ireland more choices and empowering them to learn the skills they need if they do want to get online. Classes are free and open to any person aged 65+ who would like to develop their digital literacy and confidence with guidance and support from other older people in their community.”
Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE said “Community activation and strengthening support within the community is embedded in the ALONE way. We are so delighted to be a part of these in-person, digital training classes occurring in local communities. Engaging with the older person in an environment that is familiar already removes so much of the fear factor towards getting online. Hi Digital is making strong strides towards combatting the digital illiteracy our country is struggling with, and every day we are one step closer to bridging that gap. Collectively, we are providing this training to empower older people so they are not excluded from any services or activities online that they may want and need to use.”
* The Public Broadband Connection Point network is an initiative of the Government of Ireland, in partnership with Vodafone, NBI and local authorities.