Digital Expedition Opens a New World of Knowledge to Seniors in Bor
17 April 2023
Digital Expedition’s First Stop in Bor
Bor, 8 April 2023 - This weekend the digital expedition visited Bor, the first of the ten destinations on its way through Serbia. Two days of discussions, workshops and training have attracted school children, retirees, and other residents of Bor interested in developing their digital skills, tackling digital literacy, becoming e-citizens and familiarising themselves with available electronic services on the eGovernment Portal, and learning how to be safe online.
Let's go together, step by step - a genuine invitation to retirees who came to the Bor Pensioners' Association with enthusiasm and curiosity equalling those far younger than them, to get to know the world that is rapidly changing and making lives significantly easier. “We learn as long as we live, we don’t give up” - pensioner Jagoda Stratij says with a smile. “That is our motto” - Dragoljub Jović, her peer from the Association, adds to her comment.
New technologies don't scare them. They already learned the basics, they have been using Viber for a while, they like Facebook, and the laptop is their newest challenge. “Most of us women know how to handle smartphones, but learning something new can’t hurt” Zorica Nikolić, the president of the Bor female pensioner association, says and adds: “This way we add on our literacy, we supplement our knowledge, and this is very important.”
Unafraid and unabashed, the eSeniors ask everything they want to know about, with a handy pen and a notebook just in case: how do I turn this on, what are apps, how do I know where Wi-Fi is, do I have to ask everywhere for the password? Questions are raised and everyone gets a clear answer.
“One is as old as they feel. The problem is in the villages, because we in the city mostly know [about these things], there are few people who don't have these smartphones the kids gave us. Paying the bills is interesting for me”, Jagoda says candidly.
The digital world is for everyone, but everyone does not have the same needs. Adaptation is the foundation that seniors start from. “I got into various applications and now I can do anything on the phone. I don't even buy newspapers; I can find anything I’m interested in on the phone” - Dragan says.
Nearly everyone tackled sharing photos and recipes, free video calls, and playing cartoons to grandkids. The Digital Expedition opened a new door for them: paying bills online, shopping online both in stores and pharmacies, even recording and sending voice messages instead of typing with the mandatory change of glasses that leads to confused spelling.
Zorica (73) explains: “I mostly use the internet at home. Most of the time I Google what I'm interested in, I use Facebook, Messenger, depending on how much storage I have. I transfer photos, type messages on the phone, and use my laptop. I haven't paid my bills over the phone so far, I haven't made appointments, e.g. in the cadastre, appointments can be made for some corrections, then there are payments, and the vaccines that we got inoculated against COVID.”
The members of the Bor local Youth Office also attended the training session alongside their senior citizens. The agreement was made right away - once a week the young people will come to continue what the Digital Expedition started in Bor - the digital literacy course for pensioners.
The children know a lot about these things the seniors are still struggling with. Their strength in applying new technologies they grew up with has also a downside - they are not always safe online. Since infancy they’ve been learning that they should keep their data and privacy, that - in addition to their friends - they are surrounded by complete strangers who are not always well-meaning, that they only accept friendships from those they know in real life, that they should give passwords to parents and not comment when they are hurt, nervous or angry, and the Digital Expedition team helps them do that.
“I didn't know before that there were these helplines when someone was harassing us, now I know and if I need to use them,” said sixth grader Strahinja.
Do you know the difference between peer violence and cyberbullying - that is the question that even older people frequently do not know how to answer right away. Thanks to the Digital Expedition, primary school students from Bor understood that online bullying can continue 24/7, that it can be spread from anywhere, that it has immense consequences and most importantly - that it should always be reported.
And did they learn anything new? Aleksa says: “[We learned] A lot. For example, that we should report if someone else is being bullied, and not just us.”
Mitra adds: “We need to know what can happen to us when we input data.”
What surprised them? This was it for Vuk: “For example how strangers can take over our profile and abuse it.”
What got their attention? Una says: “Posting images, these should not be posted there. Only on private accounts, and even that is questionable.” Nikolina: “What I liked most was listening about how to protect myself and others, since that is also important.”
Ana decided to apply what she learned immediately; unlike her friends, she does not want to say how old she is, because she doesn't share personal information with strangers. And she adds: “I liked it, there should just be more of these things, every month, month and a half. The fact that there are a lot of predators out there and that we shouldn't give out our personal information got most of my attention.”
Not all kids play games online all day; they use the internet mostly to reach out to their peers, even to study. Strahinja shares his experience: “I look at educational stuff; for example, I'm interested in history and I follow a YouTuber who posts videos on history. When they ask questions at school, I give the answers I learned from him and get good grades.”
Children learn easily through games, testing their knowledge is not a problem, especially when answers are sent through an online learning platform that looks like a game. Every workshop where students learn how to become and stay safe online has a quiz contest at the end. With their correct answers and quick fingers, laughter and mandatory cheerleading, the children in Bor showed that they listened carefully and mastered digital security basics.
The Digital Expedition - an initiative by Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, implemented with the support of the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, and the Office for IT and eGovernment, in partnership with UNDP and the New Literacy Program implemented by "Propulsion” and USAID - will visit nine more towns and cities in the coming months.