The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a connectivity crisis among kūpuna in Hawaiʻi. Access to a home internet connection and to a digital device is not a guarantee for all kūpuna in Hawaiʻi. Furthermore, not all kūpuna have the know-how required to effectively navigate through the complexities of technology. The Kūpuna Digital Inclusion Workgroup (KDIW) was formed to provide key stakeholders a platform to coalesce, collaborate, and develop age-friendly digital inclusion projects in Hawaiʻi.
What is Digital Inclusion?
According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, digital inclusion can be defined as the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This includes five elements:
- Affordable, robust broadband internet service;
- Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user;
- Access to digital literacy training;
- Quality technical support; and
- Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.
What does this mean for kūpuna in Hawaiʻi?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing has isolated many from their family and loved ones, and has prevented many older adults from carrying out essential daily activities, like grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions. Additionally, a variety of services, ranging from ordering food to applying for critical benefit programs, have shifted to online processes. Internet-enabled devices (i.e. computers, smartphones, tablets) have kept many kūpuna socially connected through virtual communications, and provided opportunities to receive essential services safely while maintaining social distance. However, for some kūpuna, a fixed income makes it difficult to take on financial burdens like a home internet service or purchasing new technology. For others, living in rural or underserved areas means a lack of reliable internet connection. Furthermore, there’s a need for age-friendly digital literacy classes for kūpuna to develop the skills required to effectively navigate through the complexities of technology. The KDIW recognizes that in Hawaiʻi, kūpuna’s experiences with technology are as diverse as our population of kūpuna themselves. Our goal is to design and implement digital inclusion initiatives which reflect the unique needs of Hawaiʻi’s aging population.