2018 ARC countries consistently stand out in their regions for their early and extensive investments in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and in the digitization of their economies. The unintended consequence of this is a heightened risk of digital exclusion as governments and companies move services online.

Older man and his son looking at a smart phone

For those countries where the current older population has a relatively low educational attainment and ICT penetration, efforts are focused on digital training, with the most effective programs tailored to the specific interests and needs of older adults. Mauritius has developed a particularly interesting model that offers a cost-effective approach to digital training in rural or geographically isolated areas. In the Cyber Caravans program, computer-equipped and internet-connected buses bring ICT to underserved communities, including those of older adults. While in operation since 2000, in 2018, with funding from ICT companies and the United Nations, it launched a program tailored to older users offered at the country’s network of senior recreation centers.

In countries with a digitally savvy older population, a shift in thinking is underway to move beyond digital literacy to include online accessibility—how user-friendly and accessible online content is for older people who may have functional limitations. Norway has gone the furthest in this regard, with its Regulation for Universal Design of ICT Solutions, which requires that all public and private websites follow the latest international standard of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The regulation also establishes an enforcement mechanism, authorizing the Agency for Public Management and e-Government to order an entity to introduce measures to fulfill accessibility requirements and set deadlines for compliance with the order, as well as to impose penalties should they not be met.

Technology also functions as a force multiplier for efforts to promote socially engaged and healthier aging, with the private sector increasingly recognizing the potential of this market. ICT solutions are being developed and deployed in projects around the world to enable aging in place, to enable older adults to more effectively navigate their community and services, and to improve the accessibility and efficiency of health care. The most successful examples are generated from active collaboration among industry, universities, care institutions, NGOs, and other organizations that serve older adults to ensure the development of technology that best meets their needs. The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, and Taiwan have all included aging-related technology in their national competitiveness strategies.