The National Pensioners’ Convention is urging the UK government to provide free and safe access to broadband and computer training for all over 75s.
The NPC believes it is a “human right” to be digitally connected in today’s world, and that just like the free bus pass, free broadband for older people should be a universal entitlement.
The UK’s largest campaign group for seniors heard evidence of growing digital exclusion and poverty from speakers at the NPC ‘Connections For All’ webinar on Dignity Action Day (February 1).
Figures from the Good Things Foundation charity, which took part, show that 77% of over 70s have low digital engagement, while 51% of people aged 75+ do not use the internet at all, through lack of access, skills, or confidence.
Webinar speakers discussed the obstacles to digital inclusion for older age groups, as well as the need to offer choice and alternatives to digital solutions for those who cannot, or simply do not want to go online. They also agreed fears over online fraud was a substantial issue and that broadband providers, search platforms and social media firms needed to do more to monitor and regulate the activity of scammers.
NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt, who chaired the webinar, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how valuable the internet and online video apps are in helping older people to stay in touch with family and essential services while they shield at home. But the NPC believes many are getting left behind in the ‘digital first’ age. They are often digitally excluded, either because they don’t know how to use, or they don’t have or can’t afford the broadband and the digital devices to get online.
“We support the call by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots, and others who told the webinar that digital connectivity is a human right.”
The NPC will now be writing to the Prime Minister to call for a new policy to ensure broadband and mobile providers deliver free and safe internet access to all over 75s, and a ‘social rate’ for all other vulnerable groups.
Opening the webinar, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots, said: “Digital inclusion is an issue of human rights. We know how important being digitally included has been in the last few months in particular. But for those who are digitally excluded it has become a fundamental right. We need to recognise that being digitally connected is part of a necessary infrastructure, in the same way that it is to be able to get electricity or gas – it is that important.”