Reducing Digital Divide - Computer Literacy to Fight Social Exclusion

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To address the existing situation in the country where 2 out of every 3 persons aged 55+ lack necessary computer skills and are thereby subject to social exclusion, Lattelecom has launched the Get connected, Latvia! Project (“Pieslēdzies, Latvija!”) - a large scale social initiative aimed at providing free computer literacy training to senior citizens in Latvia.

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  • To address the existing situation in the country where 2 out of every 3 persons aged 55+ lack necessary computer skills and are thereby subject to social exclusion, Lattelecom has launched the Get connected, Latvia! Project (“Pieslēdzies, Latvija!”) - a large scale social initiative aimed at providing free computer literacy training to senior citizens in Latvia.  The population in Europe is aging rapidly – by 2060 the number of persons aged 65+ is projected to double compared to persons of working age (Source – European Commission, Eurobarometer 76.2, Latvia’s results).  According to the Ministry of Welfare of the Republic of Latvia, in 2011 computer literacy has been the most preferred training programme among unemployed persons and job hunters aged 50+ (in 2011, 2451 persons underwent the beginners computer literacy training course). (Source - Ministry of Welfare of the Republic of Latvia, Report „On the inclusion of persons aged 50+ in lifelong learning and active labour market measures”), as this skill has been listed as desirable by the employers. Being aware that the role of knowledge based economy, including also new technologies, will keep increasing, Lattelecom has assisted thousands of senior citizens in obtaining the necessary computer skills, thereby contributing greatly to individual and overall country growth, bridging the digital divide and improving competitiveness of senior citizens in labour market.
  • ChallengeIn order to meet the ever increasing demand for quality computer literacy courses the company has conducted the Project for four consecutive years already, and is now facing a new challenge to provide nationwide computer literacy training to even more senior citizens than earlier.  Even though Latvia is listed among the world’s leading countries for broadband penetration, average connection speed and Internet usage (Internet used by 70% of population) there is still a certain proportion of the population that have no access to modern technologies – 73% persons aged 55+ are computer illiterate, which eventually contributes to the rise of various social and economic issues.  The Get connected, Latvia! Project aims at bridging the digital divide and removing the barriers by which a certain proportion of the population is hindered from free access to modern information and communication technologies, and jeopardised of being socially excluded through having no opportunity to access public information, to socialise, or to find an appropriate job. Considering population ageing and rising life expectancy, senior citizens will be longer active in labour market, constituting a financially and socially active part of the society. In 2012 the company has provided computer literacy training to nearly as many as 7000 senior citizens aged 50 and older, of which >80% still continue to use the computer literacy skills so gained.  By 2018 – the 100th anniversary of Latvia’s independence, Lattelecom aims to provide computer training to at least 30 000 senior citizens, regarding it as an appropriate gift to celebrate the occasion.
  • LattelecomGet Connected, Latvia! Project is considered to be a lifelong learning programme, as, through obtaining the necessary computer skills, senior citizens can not only successfully enter labour market, but to also socialise widely, and to communicate with the family members that reside in overseas countries. It has also provided an opportunity to more actively participate in social events, to access the latest news published on the Internet, and to use e-services, including also Internet banking.
  • In order to make the computer literacy courses accessible to all, and to ensure superior quality training the initiative has been conducted in association with various partners including the government sector, ~100 IT coaches from all over the country, more than ½ parishes, mass media and highly qualified experts, which has allowed Lattelecom to increase the target age group starting from the age of 50, and involving more than 6600 senior citizens. To increase public awareness of the project the company has also introduced communication channels through which to advise of the key Project achievements at national and regional level.In 2013 the Project is about to be conducted in association with the European Commission, Ministry of Welfare of the Republic of Latvia, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia, Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, and Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LIKTA), State Employment Center.  The Project also aims at improving the computer skills of librarians in Latvia (780 libraries located throughout the country) - Lattelecom has provided the necessary training to librarians so that the librarians could assist senior citizens in using a computer providing the relevant consulting. In addition, the company has accommodated 26 libraries in Latvia with free laptops to enable the necessary computer training within the libraries.  Computer literacy – Lattelecom provides a turnkey service, starting from the necessary planning and coordination work, to providing relevant teachers, and study materials and books in Latvian and Russian. The Lattelecom study programme is creative and user-friendly; it has been designed so that to assist senior citizens to obtain basic computer and Internet skills, such as powering on a PC, search for information, use of e-mail and Skype.
  • ResultsObjective – 6600 senior citizens aged 50+ Higher public awareness as to the benefits of computer literacy 81% of trained senior citizens have admitted that their life quality has improved, and that they now feel an integral part of modern society. 85% would like to continue improving the existing skills.99% have praised the friendliness and professionalism of coaches 28,6% have listed the knowledge of main events in Latvia and world as the main advantage gained through undergoing the course At least 1 of every 5 persons has admitted that the course has contributed greatly to his/her self-esteem and social inclusion1 of every 5 senior citizens has become more active, communicates more frequently with members of family, feels more up-to-date, and is able to more efficiently interact with other generations.
  • The Project has been awarded: Annual Swedish Business Award 2012, categoryCorporate Social ResponsibilityBaltic PR Awards 2012, category Corporate Social Responsibility Ministry of Welfare of the Republic of Latvia Diploma - «Awards of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012 – Lattelecom – national finalist in the category Social Entrepreneurship»The Project has been listed under European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Initiatives Conclusions:By increasing the retirement age, person cann’t do the same jod in equally high intensity and quality for all working-age period. That is why, approaching retirement, arises need for retraining.  Newly acquired IT skills in Project “Get connected, Latvia!”, allow seniors to prolong the presence in the labor market, which gives also a number of benefits, including social involvement (seniors feel more useful) and by continuing working in paid jobs, seniors also continue to pay taxes.  Social benefits – seniors, by using IT skills in everyday life, get more socialization opportunities to participate and be informed about the processes in state political, economic and social area, as well as they have opportunity to follow up or engage in public events.
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