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Older people are an often neglected section of society when it comes to digital access. Vodafone Foundation, along with its charity partners, have developed a really impactful and effective training programme to help older people navigate online safely and confidently. This has major benefits in terms of social inclusion and enabling access to online services. The collaborative model has been designed so that it can be easily replicated in new markets and has the potential to impact Europe

What is Hi Digital?

Hi Digital aims to increase older people’s confidence online in markets with some of the lowest digital skills levels in the EU (19% in Ireland, 21% in the Czech Republic, according to Eurostat).

There is a growing digital divide between generations. As our services and communities are increasingly moving online, it is more important than ever to ensure no one is left behind on the journey to a digital world.

Hi Digital is a step-by-step course designed for anyone who needs a bit of help developing their digital skills, particularly those who have rarely or never been online (often 65+ years old). Hi Digital is a free online course developed by Vodafone Foundation, and delivered in partnership with local NGOs that support older people. The course consists of bite-size lessons organised around key digital themes including the basics of internet access and how to use online devices; an essential guide to apps; and features that can enhance daily life and combat isolation. Participants can work independently or alongside mentors/coaches from charity partners over a number of weeks to complete all of the lessons. Others may have assistance from their children, grandchildren, or other people from their community.

Who can benefit from this initiative?

Older people aged over 65 who do not have the know-how or confidence to navigate online and risk loneliness or exclusion from online services

Hi Digital recognises the many ways people learn and the various challenges a user may have including sight and hearing impairment. Hi Digital incorporates a zoom feature to enlarge text and includes an audio option for all text. For our face-to-face training with older people in community settings, we carefully select venues that are accessible plus we ensure that there are VF Tech Ambassadors (trained Vodafone staff volunteers) present where possible to support with training needs for those that require extra support. Where missing, Vodafone can provide an Internet connection for seminars and training and smart devices can be loaned where needed.

What is the strategy?

The current strategy runs to 2025. Beyond that, Vodafone Foundation will continue to run the programme if there are opportunities to continue scaling and a clear need. The programme has been built to deliver long-term sustainable impact past the term of a major investment by working closely with local government bodies from the onset of the project, to build capacity and opportunities to expand the reach of learning materials.

The aim is to reach 1 million over 65s by 2026, via online and face-to-face training. The programme reached 114,823 people in its first year (2021-2022) and continues to scale up. It is anticipated that the number will have surpassed 250,000 by April 2023.

The project has been designed so that it can be replicated easily across markets. The platform content is developed in a way that can be easily ‘lifted and shifted’ to any market and hosted locally. Having started in Ireland, the platform has been replicated in Luxembourg and UK and is in the process of being replicated in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Beyond the platform and its online learning content, the model of delivering digital skills training to older people in partnership with local NGOs is the same across all five participating countries. Methods and content are routinely shared between countries. For example, in the Czech Republic, Vodafone Foundation expanded the reach of the programme through public libraries and post offices. This approach is now being replicated in Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.