- Chairperson Joyce Mutinda said the older persons are predisposed to risks through the rapidly growing technological demands, especially when seeking government services.
The National Gender and Equality Commission has decried the exclusion and discrimination of older members of society in accessing digital services.
Chairperson Joyce Mutinda said the older persons are predisposed to risks through the rapidly growing technological demands, especially when seeking government services.
“They are denied full benefits of owning a mobile phone, use of the internet or a computer. This may explain the low utilisation levels by older persons of government services delivered through digital spaces,” she said.
Mutinda said older people, persons with disabilities and populations living in areas less covered by ICT infrastructure are exposed to misinformation, exploitation via technological solutions, lack of digital privacy and security, and cyber crimes.
She said a large proportion of older members of society are victims of fraud and manipulation by their children and caregivers because they are not digitally independent and lack minimum digital literacy.
The Kenya National Information Communications Technology policy 2019 seeks to ensure all government services are available through digital spaces and that services are delivered quickly and fully at the time and place that they are needed.
Some of the services provided on digital platforms in Kenya include tax services, land management, registration of persons and businesses, court proceedings, insurance services, financial transactions and e-health.
Mutinda urged all actors to ensure the implementation of the National Information, Communication and Technology Policy 2019 to ensure the independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment, and dignity of older persons.
She said there is a need for all actors in the adult learning and continuing education sector to reflect and revamp strategies for the delivery of intensive digital literacy programmes directed to older persons.
Mutinda’s remarks were contained in a statement during the United Nations International Day for Older Persons that was marked on Friday. The theme was “Digital Equity for All Ages”
According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA, 2021), digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to information and essential services.
A report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) 2020, indicates that women and older persons experience digital inequity to a greater extent than other groups in society.
Ownership of mobile phones is generally higher among men compared to women, but it declines with age. There is a significant reduction among men and women aged 55 years and above, according to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census.
The report further says that the ownership of mobile phones is very low among men and women of ages 75 and above.
Among people aged 25 years and above, the use of a mobile phone without owning it increases with age, meaning that only a small segment of older persons uses mobile phones for various digital-related actions.
Mutinda said that ICT is a key driver of development and an accelerator for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the Big Four agenda, yet sections of the population continue to be excluded and discriminated against.
While all people have to adjust to technologically enabled ways of work and life, little investment has been dedicated to the orientation and induction of these groups to emerging advancements, she said.
“We acknowledge that the older members of society are an important segment of the population whose rights must be protected, respected and promoted by all. Their contributions to development cannot be understated and must be appreciated at all times,” Mutinda said.
Smaller proportions of older people use the internet or computers compared to other groups, according to the Draft Kenya ICT Gender Monograph 2021.
Mutinda said the digital space has been expanded more than ever before in developing countries, mainly to deal with disruptions occasioned by the emergence of pandemics such as Covid- 19, climatic shocks and natural calamities, insecurity, as well as to support innovations, creativity and explorations but equity is yet to be achieved.
She called on the government to continue making deliberate efforts on digital inclusion to reduce and eliminate barriers to access and use of technology.
“As a commission, we’re committed to supporting the state to continuously observe the UN principles of older persons with a focus on national development programmes,” Mutinda said.
She said the commission is committed to protecting the rights of older members of society, promoting their freedom from discrimination, and holding duty bearers to account for measures put in place to improve digital equity.