Include Older People in Digital Technologies – MIHR

The 2021 United Nations International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP) is being commemorated under the theme Digital Equity for All Ages” predicating the need for access and meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons.

As Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) we take this opportunity to call on the government of Zimbabwe to adopt an older persons inclusive approach in the implementation of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) as part of the Vision 2030. Specifically, an older persons inclusive approach which addresses digital equity for all ages will ensure:

  • The adoption and promotion of digital economy is inclusive of measures to empower older persons on new technologies, mobile banking and cyber security concerns;
  • As the Government targets to increase internet penetration rate from 59.1% in 2020 to 75.4% by 2025 – measures must be put to address barriers for older people’s access to internet services such as low literacy and skills knowledge levels, exorbitant internet costs, cyber security and cultural inertia for digital technology adoption by the elderly.
  • All reports by government agencies and quasi-government institutions at every level have specific data on the rate of participation/inclusion of older persons.
  • Government sign and ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons.

The fourth industrial revolution characterized by rapid digital innovation, the Internet of Thingand exponential growth has transformed all sectors of society including how we live, work and relate to one another. The Covid19 pandemic has disrupted normal human interface and shifted human interactions to the digital space. Yet the 2020 report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) indicate that women and older persons experience digital inequity to a greater extent than other groups in society; they either lack access to technologies or are often not benefitting fully from the opportunities provided by technological progress. The Report further shows that in Less Developed Countries, 17% of the rural population has no mobile coverage at all, and 19% of the rural population is only covered by a 2G network. It also shows that in Africa, internet access at home is 6% in rural areas compared to 28% in urban areas.

In the 2021 message, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated that “Older persons have often been left more isolated during the pandemic. They are also at greater risk of suffering from the rising threat of cybercrime.  While taking all possible measures to hold to account those unscrupulous criminals preying on older persons, we must also work to strengthen the digital skills of the elderly as an important defence and means to improve their wellbeing. When older persons can access, learn and use new technology, they will be better equipped to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

The International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually on 01 October since the 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 45/106 which designated the day.

Statement by:

Khumbulani Maphosa (MIHR Coordinator)

Cellphone: +263 771 730 018



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