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Oman’s senior citizens not affected by digital divide

29 Sep 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

‘Digital Equity for All Ages’, theme of 2021 International Day of Older Persons

Muscat – The International Day of Older Persons 2021 – themed ‘Digital Equity for All Ages’ – affirms the need for access and meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons.

On the occasion, which is celebrated on October 1, Muscat Daily spoke to a few elderly people who vouched that senior citizens in Oman are digitally equipped and don’t feel lagging behind.

Oman is safe with regards to discrimination associated with digitalisation, said Obaid al Khaldi, a 69-year-old Barka resident. “The government has left no stone unturned to make sure everyone in Oman is well taken care of and as compared to our youth days, Oman is now more digital than ever. I may be almost 70 years old but am very active when it comes to using technological devices. I connect with all my family and friends digitally and as an older person, I feel I am not left behind,” he said.

On December 14, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons as recorded in Resolution 45/106.

According to the United Nations (UN), the objectives of the 2021 theme for the International Day of Older Persons is to bring awareness of the importance of digital inclusion of older persons, while ‘tackling stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination associated with digitalisation, taking into account sociocultural norms and the right to autonomy’.

This is in addition to highlighting policies to leverage digital technologies for full achievement of the sustainable development goals, the UN states.

While Oman’s elderly population has access to Internet, the UN states that one-half of the global population is off-line, ‘with the starkest contrast between the most developed countries (87 per cent) and the least developed countries (19 per cent)’.

Recent reports by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) indicate that women and older persons experience digital inequity to a greater extent than other groups in society; they either lack access to technologies, or are often not benefiting fully from the opportunities provided by technological progress.

However, according to Mohammed al Harthy, 67, things are going in the right direction in Oman.

“While more and more people escape to the virtual world as they realise that digital life must go on, the elderly have embraced it fully too. If everything can happen online, why not our traditional activities? We are blessed with technology and we can still gather for either joyful or sombre moments online. In the past months, we held events and meetings digitally, and this shows how Oman has progressed,” Harthy said.

Meanwhile, as efforts to connect more people are currently under way, new risks have become apparent. For example, cybercrimes and misinformation threaten human rights, privacy, and security of older people.
The rapid speed of adoption of digital technology has outpaced policy and governance at the national, regional, and global levels.

“I have access to technology even though I am not tech-savvy. I try to limit the use of technology because sometimes I feel if overused, I may be prone to misinformation and it may deprive me privacy. I still do not fully trust the digital world. So, I am very careful,” Abdullah Nasser, 68, said.

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