First Net Inclusion Summit Embraces Older Adults

December 24, 2018

The very first Net Inclusion Summit was held last May in Kansas City, and several Senior Service America staff were there. Convened by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the gathering brought together more than 200 various organizations from across the country working to ensure that all Americans can reap the benefits of 21st century communications technology. We have been working on digital inclusion for older Americans since 2009 and wanted to represent the voice and concerns of this important segment of the population at the summit.

We found ourselves in good company. Wanda Davis of the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center attended our summit breakout session entitled, “Resources for Getting Seniors Online.” We highlighted Wanda’s senior center in an article published by the Benton Foundation’s Digital Beat Blog entitled, “Federal Funding Fosters Senior Digital Learning.” Also at the summit was Kami Griffith of Community Technology Network, whose work with the City of San Francisco’s Department on Aging was also featured in our article.

At our breakout session, Bob Harootyan, SSAI Manager of Research, presented our analysis of data published by the Pew Research Center, indicating that income and education are as important as age in determining whether a person is online or not. We first published this analysis in another Digital Beat Blog article, “Disadvantaged elders: Least likely to be online.” He also presented his findings on how digital learning in a cordial low-pressure learning environment promotes mental well-being, based on data from our Digital Inclusion Initiative.

Session participants told us that they planned to share our research and analysis as they reach out to funders to support digital literacy and computer training for older Americans.

With so much attention being paid to make sure children have Internet access at home for schoolwork, it’s easy for funders and policymakers to overlook the needs of senior citizens. In Kansas City we found that older Americans have some important allies across the country working to eliminate the digital divide for everyone.