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Empowering Elderly Citizens with Digital Skills

Publication Date: Sep 23, 2015
The Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) in collaboration with the Parliamentary Secretariat for Rights of Persons with Disability and Active Ageing, and the Parliamentary Secretariat for Competitiveness and Economic Growth today celebrated the closure of a pilot project aimed at empowering elderly citizens with basic Digital Skills. In a small celebratory event, a group of senior citizens were awarded Certificates of Participation to mark their successful journey in exploring the basic use of digital media and applications.
The pilot project was possible thanks to the strict collaboration with three trainers, all ex MITA employees, and the participation of 30 older citizens. Training was given in three different localities, Luqa, Rabat and Marsaskala. Each student recieved a total of 20hours course in basic digital skills.
During his address to the course participants, Emanuel Darmanin, Head of the Strategy and Business Department at MITA, explained that this pilot’s inception was based on the results of research that MITA conducted jointly with the University of Malta on the older generation’s participation in the digital economy. The National Strategic Policy for Active Ageing was also an important contributor to the development of the project. The reality is that individuals who are typically over 65+ years might feel less confident with devices, applications and today’s digital lingo and feel cut-off from these social and societal developments. There is a digital divide and Government and stakeholders have to work together in a co-ordinated fashion to address it. 
Through the pilot project MITA supported a number of peer learning communities managed by senior citizens who are digitally-savvy. Through these communities, the groups of senior citizens explored the practical and relevant use of technology to pursue their interest, such as communicating with loved ones, contributing on social media, shopping and banking online, and searching for resources on topics of interest. The informality and flexibility of the groups, the camaraderie between peers and the approach to learning were key to the success of the pilot.
Mr Darmanin said that “MITA felt it was important to embark on a pilot project of this nature in order to contribute towards the bridging of this digital divide by empowering this age group with basic digital skills and further encourage them to explore the use of technology in their daily lives.  We aim at supporting older citizens to increase their confidence in the use of today’s technology, and actively participate in a society driven by technological advancements.”  He also went on to say that “Following the encouraging feedback that MITA received, and in particular the extremely positive comments received by the course participants, we confirmed that small informal peer learning communities are ideal for these training purposes. Together with other key partners MITA will now evaluate the results of this pilot, and work towards potentially extending this course to further groups within Malta and Gozo.”
During her address, Hon Justyne Caruana, Parliamentary Secretary for Persons with Disability and Active Aging said that Government’s vision is to strengthen Government services for the elderly within their community. Her Secretariat, in collaboration with the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), introduced courses related to information technology in the day centres targeting the elderly, which forms part of the lifelong learning programme across Malta and Gozo. Hon Caruana praised the initiative and said that this shall help to eliminate the digital divide, and it is offers a possibility to the elderly to keep learning tools which will help them all along. She concluded saying that this project is also important in the context of the implied strategy for active aging implemented by Government.
The Hon Dr Jose Herrera, Parliamentary Secretary for Competiveness and Economic Growth, closed the event and said that “It is important to encourage senior citizens to participate, discuss, and impart their experiences and knowledge. Digital media can be a means to achieve this. We have to support our wiser generation to feel comfortable with the new tools for doing so.”  He also stated “The positive results achieved during this pilot are very promising.  It certainly seems like we have found the correct equation to encourage our older citizens to explore and become active part the digital era we are living in”.