Computers & Internet - how could we ever go without them? The time when work at office involved a lot of paper pushing and running through file cases and drawers, drawing of was done by ruler and pencil, documents were sent via teletype and calculations were made with slide rule.... it all fades from our memory. Actually, chances are many of us never experienced the "old" analogue world in the first place and when we first started working we were already proficient computer users.
In reality, although computers were with us since mid-80's, Internet is a relatively new phenomenon and gained popularity in mid-90's, although at first only in few locations (with US at the forefront), while in others cost of access was prohibitive and infrastructure inadequate. The entire popular, tumulous history of the Internet we know can be contained in the last 15 years, as shown below:
Still, many of us remain on the verges of the digital world: data for 2011 shows that on average 24 % of EU citizens have never used the Internet. In reality things vary from country to country, with Romania having a worrying 55 % of non-users, while Sweden or Denmark is well below 10 %, however that fact remains: even when a good access infrastructure is in place, a good portion of population chooses to remain disconnected.
This is particularly true for the 50+ generation. At the time before the Internet boom they were already doing fine without it and since have felt little need to change their views. In Poland, only one third of the 55-64s use the net, while the 65+ generation shows even less interest: only 9% of them are online! In other countries we can see the same problem, although the magnitude of it is varied and depends on numerous factors. So what can be done to narrow this digital gap, particularily wide in the 50+ generation?
The "Cities in Internet" Association investigated this problem in the context of actions it conducts in the area of e-inclusion. Since 2011 it coordinates the PCRS programme (I mentioned in my blogpost Polish national Digital Literacy Programme. We also conduced a research study in which we actually worked with digitally excluded people, first asking them what was their motivation to remain disconnected, then we looked at ways in which we can raise their interest and finally we assembled basic facts which were somehow overlooked but make all the difference. I encourage you to read the report: Generation 50+: first steps into the digital world.
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