Norway is a highly digitized society, where in 2015, 93% of households have access to internet, close to 90 percent of citizens do online banking, and 2/3 of all Norwegians are on Facebook. Not being online means not only more difficult access to services, but it means staying somewhat outside of the society.
Almost 100% of those below 65 use internet and while more and more people have tendency to go online from their mobile (65 to 72 percent during 2014), this uptake is remarkably slower among senior citizens, where only 2 of 10 uses mobile internet. The reasons for this are typically need for help to get started, low understanding of costs and how to control them and lack of relevance, as many in this age group find it satisfactory to be online while at home and using a pc.
Telenor Norway takes action to extend the benefits of internet to the senior citizens by arranging tablet and smartphone courses, some of them in co-operation with the Red Cross. This is the first step in a broader initiative involving also a mentor programme, as well as online learning and follow-up at a later stage.
No question is stupid
“I have a sister in Denmark and I would definitely appreciate some help in getting onto Skype. I had an account before, but now I can’t get into that account any longer and I don’t understand why. I’ve quite simply given up,” says Åse Sparebo, one of the participants in the recently held course. By the end of the lesson, she talked to her sister through Skype.
Lars Bakken, program manager for the Internet for all initiative in Telenor Norway, explains that every tablet course starts with encouragement to participants to ask questions. “There are no stupid questions. As long as you wonder about something, you can be sure that there are more people in the room who ponder exactly the same.”
An 89 year old lady who has never used tablet or smartphone before turned up on a learning session in Tromsø, in the north of Norway. A bit uncertain in what she really wants to learn during the course, she mentioned that she was interested in chess. She now plays chess with her grandchild in Australia via an app on her tablet and – as she says, it’s so addictive that she had to limit her chess-gaming to two moves a day.
The main motivators
Staying in touch with family and friends living far away is the main motivator for many in this age-group to get online, followed by a need to store and share pictures and plan travels. They also appreciate having easy access to news and weather forecast.
The standard programme of the course is designed based on these needs – following a fictional elderly couple in a situation familiar for many seniors in Norway: planning a travel from Oslo to Trondheim to visit a new born grandchild. In this way, course participants could learn how to use internet in situations that are relevant for them: they booked the plane tickets, got directions, checked the weather and obtained reading materials for the trip with just a few clicks on their tablets.
Bakken says that the classes have been very popular and overbooked most places. People are signing in to be contacted when new courses are held in their towns, while 99.7 percent of participants say that they will recommend this learning session to the others.
Pilot partnership with Red Cross
In 2015, the Department of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability teamed up with long-time partner Red Cross in arranging tablet courses together. Throughout the year they arranged 40 courses in Oslo and Akershus. In 2016 the partners have arranged courses especially for migrant women.
“The tablet course is an example of how we work to extend the benefits of mobile communications to as many people as possible”, says Ana Brodtkorb, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Telenor Norway. Brodtkorb explains that loneliness among the elderly is defined as one of the five major humanitarian challenges that Norway will face in the future. At the same time, the number of people above the age of 67 is expected to grow 60 percent by 2030.
“We are excited to see how the participants in our courses enjoy learning to master new technology and services. They are connecting with families and friends online there and then, and leaving the course they often ask us: when is the next one?