BayanTel launches computer literacy program for elderly

By Kristine Servando – Elderly Filipinos can now unleash the “techie” in them as Bayan Telecommunications Inc. (BayanTel) launches its computer literacy program for the aged.

The “Teach Lola” campaign aims to teach the elderly how to use the Internet in line with BayanTel’s aim to make the World Wide Web accessible to all segments of the market.

Under the program, older people will be taught computer and Internet basics by their more computer-literate grandkids using online manuals or by attending “Teach Lola” workshops.

The program was inspired by BayanTel’s funny TV ads featuring “Lola Techie” a computer-savvy grandma who, in her spare time, plays a shooter video game Counterstrike, “Superpokes” her grandkids on Facebook, or links up with friends via webcam and online chat.

The ad’s novel portrayal of a senior citizen well-versed in online happenings was a humorous take on one aspect of the “digital divide.”

“The real opportunity is not just connecting the elderly, the seniors, but the young people as well. Because that’s where the Internet -giving the Filipino their voice – back comes in,” said Tunde Fafunwa, BayanTel chief executive consultant, at the campaign press launch on Tuesday.

Test-run shows some success

The company held a “Teach Lola” workshop 2 weeks ago with 20 BayanTel employees and their grandparents.

In one-on-one sessions with their grandkids, the grandparents were taught how to set up e-mail accounts or look for information online using search engines.

Freya Santos, BayanTel Corporate Brand and Communications Manager, said that the process promotes family bonding and helps grandparents connect with their family members, especially those overseas.

“It’s really about reconnecting the relationship [so that] lolas aren’t relegated to the rocking chair. It’s all about connecting people, even online. It’s like an investment. Invest an afternoon with your lola [or lolo] so you can keep in touch with them in the future,” she said.

After the workshop, Santos said many grandparents overcame their fear of computers and realized how easy it was to “get wired.”

“At the very least, they were able to set up e-mail accounts. So getting taught the basics was enough to get them interested,” she said.

Meanwhile, online manuals on the “Teach Lola” website give tips on how best to teach computer concepts to the elderly, like letting them sit in comfortable chairs, having patience when teaching, or using relatable terms like “e-mail is like snail mail, only faster” or “Google is like a big library.”

These manuals are designed like wiki pages so that users can share their experiences or offer their own teaching tips.

Long-term advocacy

Fafunwa said the “Teach Lola” campaign will be nationwide in scope and will run for several months. He said it may run longer “should they see the need.”

“Teach Lola” events will be launched in various communities around the country. BayanTel is tapping organizations who would like to help provide materials and computers for the workshops.

The “Teach Lola” lessons may take 2 to 3 sessions, depending on the speed at which the seniors learn.

Fafunwa said they are trying to tap social groups who would like to adopt the campaign so that it will spread faster. “If other companies want to take it on as their advocacy, we’d really welcome that,” he said.

Although there have been many computer literacy programs for senior citizens, the “Teach Lola” campaign is the first of its kind in terms of its scope and its idea of enlisting the help of family members.

Fafunwa said the elderly, like everyone else, can benefit from the Internet because it is a source of news and information, as well as a great opportunity for communicating with people.

He said seniors can get inspired by Lola Techie, played by 65-year-old actress Tessie Moreno, whom Fafunwa described as “adventurous, open and willing to try new things.” Moreno said in an interview that though she is different from her character Lola Techie, they share a common interest in computers.

Real figures

According to BayanTel’s research, only 11% of the elderly know how to use the internet.

Cases like Lola Techie’s is an exception to the norm, being part of an as yet unmeasured segment of older people who use the internet as enthusiastically as younger users.

Asked if Lola Techie’s case is realistic, CICT commissioner Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua said in a separate interview: “Yes, definitely. My dad uses a lot of computers himself. So I think computers aren’t limited to anyone. Anyone can use it, especially if you just take the time to learn how.”

Fafunwa added that the older generation, like all, consist of a broad spectrum of characters. “[There are] some who are afraid of technology, some who’ve taken it in. We’re just highlighting a certain aspect that, ‘Hey, you know, just because you’re a senior citizen doesn’t mean you should be uncomfortable with technology,'” he said.

Roxas-Chua said, however, that there is still no conclusive study on the current Internet habits of the elderly or other segments of the Filipino market.

“It’s hard to measure Internet penetration using [the number of] broadband subscriptions because you have Internet cafés [that have many computers but just one broadband subscription],” he said.

Roxas-Chua said the Commission on Information and Communications Technology has partnered with the World Bank on coming up with a study that will measure the country’s internet penetration or the extent to which the population is exposed to the internet or computers.

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