Vodafone Ireland launches digital training course for older people

29 Sep 2021

Former rally driver Rosemary Smith helps Vodafone launch Hi Digital. Image: Vodafone Ireland

The Hi Digital course can be completed independently or with the help of Alone and Active Retirement Ireland.

Ahead of the UN International Day of Older Persons on 1 October, Vodafone Ireland has launched a new training programme to help those over the age 65 improve their digital skills.

Partnering with charities Alone and Active Retirement Ireland, the telecom giant is rolling out its five-year digital skills training programme, Hi Digital, with the aim of supporting more than 230,000 older people in Ireland.

Open to anyone who needs help, the programme is targeted towards those over 65 years of age and includes bite-sized lessons on the basics of using the internet and how apps can improve daily life.

Established with a €2m investment from the Vodafone Ireland Foundation, the course can be completed independently online or with the help of volunteers from Alone or Active Retirement Ireland through face-to-face interactions. Vodafone said that group classes will be rolled out nationally next year.

Digital divide

“As technology continues to improve and advance, increasingly in Ireland and across Europe we are seeing a digital divide between generations,” Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary said.

“This digital divide is not only creating social isolation among older people, but poses a long-term threat to mental health, leading to a risk of depression for older generations as communities and services become increasingly digitised.”

The pandemic has made people realise the importance of digital skills. Vodafone said that research suggests digital literacy levels in those over 65 in Ireland are among the lowest in Europe, with the gap widening in rural areas.

Active Retirement Ireland CEO Maureen Kavanagh added that the new programme will see thousands of older people becoming more familiar with technology. “Older people will be the digital ambassadors bringing new skills to their communities to share and pass on,” she said.

“Access to digital skills for older people is a priority for Active Retirement Ireland as we strive to reduce loneliness and isolation by ensuring older people have the knowledge and information they need to choices that improve their quality of life.”

An Accenture report published last year found that at least 25pc of the Irish population is excluded from an “increasingly digital society” because of socioeconomic reasons – with older people reporting the lowest confidence levels in their digital skills.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic