HK govt should act to improve internet literacy of elderly

March 04, 2020 13:31
While there has been a notable gain in the internet literacy of the elderly, it appears that 44 percent of them have no idea how to get online, a survey shows. Photo: HKEJ

Following a month-long suspension, some of the off-course betting branches of The Jockey Club reopened on Monday, and long queues were found outside some of the branches.

It suggests that many of our horse racing fans, particularly senior citizens, do not know how to place their bets via online platforms.

Hong Kong’s internet penetration rate is 270 percent, the highest in Asia. That means every Hongkonger owns 2.7 digital devices on average, including desktops, laptops and smartphones.

But not all age groups are familiar with the digital world.

About 56 percent of Hong Kong residents aged above 65 have used the internet over the past 12 months as of September 2018, compared with 44 percent in 2016, according to a survey released by the Census and Statistics Department.

While there has been a notable gain in the internet literacy of the elderly, it appears that 44 percent of them have no idea how to get online.

Since government agencies and various organizations are increasingly using internet platforms to release key information, such as those related to the coronavirus outbreak, not knowing how to use the internet may become a serious issue.

There are now 1.2 million people aged 65 or above in Hong Kong. The sheer size of this group means the government should not neglect their needs.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has announced HK$10,000 cash handouts for all permanent residents aged 18 or above to stimulate domestic consumption. The Community Care Fund also provides subsidies for needy students to purchase mobile computer devices for their e-learning activities.

In addition to those, the government should consider handing out entry-level smartphones for the elderly and subsidizing some sort of basic data plan for them.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 3

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist