Reducing the digital gap for senior citizens in Colombia

2017-09-05

The Colombian ‘AdulTICoProgram’ is awarded the 2017 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy for providing digital skills to seniors.

The literacy prize goes to the Secretariat of Information and Communications Technologies in the city of Armenia in Colombia, located in the department of Quindío.

The Secretariat works to provide better online services to reduce the digital gap among the residents of the city of Armenia. In 2014, it launched the ‘AdulTICoProgram’ to teach digital competencies to seniors. In 2016, more than 2,275 learners aged between 54 and 80 benefited from the AdulTICoProgram.

The programme includes the teaching of basic computing skills, literacy, the use of social networks, and the appropriate use of mobile devices. The learners participate in interactive trainings through seminar-workshops that are based on a learning-by-doing approach.

Mr Bernardo Arango Restrepo, the Secretary of the Secretariat, says: “Literacy is an important process for the quality of life of every person. Without it, there are many opportunities that one cannot access. Older adults who have not had the opportunity to be literate feel that, as they advance in age, they are rejected and sometimes forgotten. Many consider that adults no longer have the ease of learning, this denies them the opportunity to integrate fully in society.”

Besides being taught digital skills, the learners are also introduced to the opportunities that the internet provides. This increases their ability to use consultation, information and networking services. This skillset positively increases the independence and autonomy of the seniors, and broadens their perspectives and knowledge.

Mr Carlos Fernando Benitez, former Secretary of the Secretariat explains that the project started in 2014 when he met with Cabildo el Mayor, a union representing interests of older adults in the city of Armenia. As the traditional paperwork started being digitized, there was a growing need for not only providing tablets but also deliver the necessary literacy and skills training to use the e-services efficiently.

“Thus began a serious and structured digital literacy project that has been in existence for four years and that has allowed seniors to advance in their technological independence,” says Mr Benitez.

About the lessons learned from the programme, Mr Bernardo Arango Restrepo says: “The Adult program teaches us that every day, regardless of age; we must give ourselves the opportunity to learn. Technology gives us infinite possibilities of communication and access to information that the seniors of the City of Armenia in Quindío, Colombia, have been taking advantage of to overcome barriers related to age and especially with the prejudices about that adults cannot learn new skills.”

This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Canada, Colombia, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa on the occasion of International Literacy Day, celebrated on 8 September. The prize-giving ceremony will be organized at UNESCO Headquarters and be part of the global event. This year’s Literacy Prizes will focus on Literacy in a digital world.