The Digital Gap is a strategic topic related to national resilience - societies that are better prepared for the Digital Era will be more resilient. Scholars warn of a situation in which those lacking digital literacy will be considered ‘the new illiterates’, impacting their employment, income and education. Lack of digital literacy among older adults will also negatively impact physical and mental health, loneliness and depression. In light of the ongoing trend of fast developing digital technologies in the modern age, people are required to utilize an increasing variety of technical, cognitive and sociological skills to carry out tasks and solve problems in digital environments.
The percentage of internet users aged 65+ in Israel is constantly rising, having increased fivefold in the past decade, yet it is still low compared to the general population. In Israel, 38% of older adults own a computer, 31% use the internet on their mobile phones, 49% are connected to the internet, and 21% frequently use social networks (such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn).
There is no digital literacy education and training infrastructure designed specifically around the needs of older adults. There are an estimated 470,000 older adults in Israel with poor levels of digital literacy who are unable to benefit from the application of technology in their day to day living. Low digital access and the growing difficulty many older adults experience in actualizing the digital sphere for everyday use, is increasing their emotional, social, financial and health gaps.
The national pilot initiative will target Israeli citizens aged 65+ with poor levels of digital literacy – estimated at 470,000 people. These individuals lack basic digital literacy skills. They do not know how to use equipment such as PC’s or mobile phones, the internet and mobile applications. Older adults who have these basic skills are a secondary target population and not the program’s primary focus. The program is aimed equally at men and women and is open to all religions, sectors and levels of society.
The three primary target populations are independent older adults, older adults in frameworks (assisted living, clubs etc.) and the homebound.
This program offers a range of digital literacy courses and workshops on various levels and across various disciplines. Digital skills that older adults need to remain relevant in the workplace and access tools for managing health and wellbeing are two examples of topics offered. The initial 18-month phase of this program will affect 1,000 clients in 66 groups in 50 locations nationally.
Stage A of the program, from January 2018 to July 2019, will include running courses through operating entities based on existing infrastructures and abilities. These will include Machshava Tova and Tapuach – which have a combined infrastructure of over 50 computer centers comprising over 1,000 computers, and access to 450 computer centers in schools, libraries, community centers and hi-tech companies nationally – as well as four Guidance Centers for Independent Older Adults, which are currently being established by Eshel. Basic digital literacy courses will be offered during this stage, with advanced courses being added in the later part of 2019 (Stage B).
Additionally, at this stage, a joint learning process will take place with the operation and steering committee and the operating entities to extract and formulate insights, develop methodologies, study content and lesson plans.
Stage B of the program will run from mid-2019 for up to five years and will see the number of participants grow to 10,000. Stage B will include developing the insights and implementing the Best Practices learned during Stage A. This stage will utilize operating entities that will be selected by public tender.
- Use technology to improve health, finances, social engagement, learning and creative expression
- Put technology in the hands of older adults to achieve meaningful outcomes – manage information, empower themselves, and build community
- Empowering Israeli older adults to become agents in their personal lives and communities
Sense of control – older adults feel that technology increases their sense of control over everyday aspects of their lives:
- Access to knowledge and information – regarding health issues, finances, social / community etc.
- Realization of rights
- Taking action
Capability – the older adults feels they are able to use existing technology in accordance with their needs and preferences
Coping – the older adults feel they can cope with technological changes and progress
Increased use of technological / digital services
The program is adopted by the government and disseminated nationally, serving as an anchor for the participation of the older population in the digital world.
Measurement and Evaluation
The evaluating research will focus on:
- The program’s influence on motivational / mental factors related to technology use (sense of control, capability, benefit, adaptability to new technologies and more);
- Behavioral changes when using technologies (is there an increased use of technology, higher consumption of services through digital platforms and so on);
- Knowledge (did they acquire knowledge, did they retain it after a period of time etc.);
- Indices of the program itself (learning experience, perceived program benefit etc.).
Measurement tools will include:
- Survey of needs (who wants to learn, what they want to learn, how etc.);
- Measurements before and after entering the program;
- Comparison groups (either with groups not in the program or a comparison of the operating entities or both).
2017 - 2019
The Ministry of Science and Technology
The Ministry for Social Equality
Digital Israel - This is a government national initiative that focuses on harnessing the potential of the digital revolution to advance information and communication technologies for the benefit of accelerating economic growth, reducing socio-economic gaps and making government smarter, faster, and more accessible to citizens. Digital Israel approached Eshel to take responsibility for the development of the national digital literacy initiative for older adults.
Program Consultant: OATS
OATS (www.oats.org) is an industry leader in the development of digital literacy pedagogy and methodologies for older adults. OATS has been active in New York for the past 13 years, promoting digital literacy and active aging among older adults. The organization has 24 computer classrooms across New York and other cities in the US, providing service to 20,000 beneficiaries a year. OATS has agreed to act as a consultant to Eshel on program content, relevant studies, methodologies, lesson plans and guidance plans for the national initiative.