Japan is Continuing Efforts to Bridge the "Digital Divide" Between Generations
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Japan is Continuing Efforts to Bridge the "Digital Divide" Between Generations

By Molly Kaiser for The J-Pop Exchange

Japanese mobile phone operator NTT Docomo is offering classes in smartphone education as part of an effort by the government to improve digital proficiency among the country’s elderly population.

In 2021, the Japanese ministry set a goal of providing digital training to half of the 20 million elderly citizens who don’t know how to operate digital devices in the following five years.

According to The Japan Times, a 2020 public opinion survey conducted by the government found that 25.7% of citizens 60 and 69 said they hardly use or don’t use smartphones. This number is 57.9% for people 70 and older. In contrast, fewer than 10% of respondents 18 through 59 said the same.

Kyodo News reported on the first of these efforts in 2021, in which local governments hosted almost 1,000 sessions through March 22, free of charge, where elderly residents could ask questions about smartphones and try out loaner devices.

The lessons were held at community centers and mobile phone shops, and are “so popular” that a lottery system was employed at times to select participants.

According to the article, the digital divide became more apparent in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when older citizens without internet access had trouble making online appointments for vaccinations. Further, Kyodo News reported that nearly a quarter of elderly residents in Shibuya didn’t have smartphones.

Japan has one of the world’s oldest populations, just behind the U.S., with more than 35 million residents over the age of 65. 28.2% of its population is above the age of 65, making the need to shrink the gap among generations even more pressing.

And digital proficiency is not just good for macro-societal advancement, but also for individual wellness. The digital efforts are also being made to curb elder isolation. Being able to connect virtually with friends and family can improve seniors’ overall well-being and quality of life.

Private sector solutions have also been enacted to address this divide, like the Rakuten Seniors app. The lifestyle app tracks health data for seniors, like daily steps, and acts as a hub for seniors to join community events and classes.


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