Tech Titans Encourage Seniors to Go Online
By: Chloe Albanesius
An organization intended to get more older Americans online launched this past month, backed by tech giants like Verizon, Facebook, Comcast, and Microsoft.
The Project to Get Older Adults onLine (GOAL) will work with aging groups in order to communicate the importance of getting more senior citizens on the Web.
"Only 35 percent of older adults (age 65 and older) have broadband at home – and the numbers drop considerably in even older age brackets," Debra Berlyn, executive director of Project GOAL, wrote in a blog entry posted on Facebook. "That's why I'm excited to announce on Facebook the launch of a new effort to promote broadband adoption by the older adult community."
Other corporate sponsors include AT&T, T-Mobile, Time Warner Cable, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).
The group's goals are four-fold: provide a new platform to promote the adoption of broadband services for the older adult community; advance the benefits of broadband services for older adults and the aging community; connect national and local community organizations working on issues related to broadband together; and address the barriers to the adoption of broadband that are of particular concern to the aging community.
Berlyn acknowledged that there are barriers to getting seniors online. For starters, many just aren't interested in the Internet.
"While most of us have a hard time prying our fingers off our computer keyboards and mobile devices, recognizing the Internet's relevance to daily life is an important part of getting older adults to start adopting broadband," she wrote.
As a result, those seniors are also unlikely to have a computer. "While 'cutting and pasting' is second nature to most of us, my 87 year-old father thought such a task required scissors and Elmer's glue," Berlyn joked.
Others, meanwhile, are concerned about becoming victims of online scams.
"Offering tools and information regarding online safety, security and privacy for older adults is an important part of any effort to promote broadband adoption for the aging community," Berlyn said.
Blair Levin, who heads the Federal Communications Commission's broadband initiative, championed Project GOAL at a Tuesday launch event in Washington, D.C.
"There are limits to government levers to promote adoption and deployment in our most unserved communities," Levin said in a speech that was posted on the FCC blog. "We're focusing today on older Americans because the barriers to this community are steep."
"It is one of the great merits of the Internet that it embraces the distributed efforts of many people to solve problems and create knowledge. Our efforts to promote adoption must reflect the same sensibility," Levin continued. "We must crowdsource adoption."
In related news, Skype on Tuesday announced that it will team up with Score, a small business mentoring organization, in order to encourage businesses to adopt broadband. The initiative will focus on increasing digital literacy, web skills, e-commerce capabilities and online communications for small businesses. Skype and other consortium founders will donate free or discounted services and applications, training content, train-the-trainer assistance, and funding.