Vodafone announces two new strategic charity partners – ALONE and Active Retirement Ireland.

  • Vodafone invests over €2M in Hi Digital, a nationwide social partnership with ALONE and Active Retirement Ireland, to deliver online and in-person digital skills training for older people.
  • Hi Digital is designed to support over 230,000 older people through a purpose-built education platform that will help to bridge the worsening digital divide experienced by older persons.

29 September 2021: Vodafone Ireland Foundation, has today announced new strategic partnerships with charities ALONE and Active Retirement Ireland to deliver a five-year dedicated, nationwide digital skills training programme called ‘Hi Digital’ for people over the age of 65.  

A first of its kind in Ireland, the programme has been created to support older people who lack digital skills, through online and in person training. Topics include: understanding Smartphone features and essential online skills that help enhance daily life: Keeping in touch through WhatsApp and social media, planning trips; researching interests and hobbies; online shopping, entertainment and banking, as well as educating on online safety.

Working with NGOs, this is the only programme in Ireland of this scale that offers a blended learning approach through multiple partnerships for older people. The announcement comes as 2021 United Nations International Day for Older Persons focuses on digital equity for all ages.  

With an investment of over €2million in the initiative, Vodafone Ireland Foundation hopes to directly impact over 230,000 older people and reach over 1 million people indirectly as families, friends and communities around older people are positively impacted by the Hi Digital project. In year one, Vodafone aims to directly reach 20,000 older people and it is anticipated this will grow steadily each year thereafter.

According to research, digital literacy levels in 65+ year-olds in Ireland are among the lowest in Europe, and well below the EU average (19% v 25%*), with the divide worsening for those in rural locations.

The pandemic has exacerbated this problem as it saw more communities and services move online at an unprecedented rate with many older people being effectively shut off from essential services. In addition to being disadvantaged on a practical level, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, older people have become more at risk of depression and loneliness. 

Vodafone Foundation’s dedicated Hi Digital learning platform has been built with older people in mind, with programme partners Active Retirement Ireland and ALONE supporting in the creation of content that will be relevant and useful in the day to day lives of older people. Available from today at www.hidigital.ie the platform is made for beginners and will support those helping older people get online, self-learners, and by partners delivering the project.

Participants can work through the programme online at their own pace, or can take part in group classes or one to one mentoring which will be rolled out nationally in the new year.  Interest can be registered through the website or the dedicated number:1800 203030.

The programme will be delivered and facilitated by grassroots volunteers from Vodafone Ireland and Foundation, Active Retirement Ireland and ALONE in a number of ways:

•            Face-to-face with Active Retirement Ireland /ALONE volunteers

•            Small group training

•            Virtual training

Anne O’Leary, CEO, Vodafone Ireland said, “Through our commitment to this programme, we want to change older people’s attitude and behaviour towards technology. We want to empower older people by educating them on how to use the internet and explain the benefits it can have on their daily lives. We are also delighted to partner with two new strategic charity partners, Active Retirement Ireland and ALONE, who have worked closely with us on the Hi Digital content and will support the rollout of the platform in communities across the country.

“As technology continues to improve and advance, increasingly in Ireland and across Europe, we are seeing a digital divide between generations. This digital divide is not only creating social isolation among older people, but poses a long-term threat to mental health, leading to a risk of depression for older generations as communities and services become increasingly digitized.

“In response to this, we have built a 360° digital literacy upskilling platform which will be delivered through online and face-to-face training, using the Vodafone Broadband Connection Points and Gigabit Hubs, expert NGO support, and Vodafone’s premium network, with the aim of increasing digital literacy in older people. Additionally, we believe this project can reduce feeling of loneliness amongst older people, and its effects on their mental health.”

Maureen Kavanagh CEO Active Retirement Ireland said: Active Retirement Ireland is delighted to be involved in this partnership with Vodafone that will see thousands of older people learning essential IT skills in their communities through our new programme  “Digital Skills for everyday Living”. This programme is a nationwide initiative empowering older people to embrace the digital world. We will have online learning resources as well as a network of community partners who will offer support & training so older people can develop their digital skills with confidence.”

Sean Moynihan, CEO, ALONE said:“ALONE’s aim is to create an infrastructure to empower older people to use technology, enabling the user to manage their social connection, health, safety and security. Our partnership with Hi Digital help us on this journey.

He continued: “Our actions aim to help older people bridge the digital divide by getting them online. Over the next five years, thanks to the Vodafone Foundation, ALONE will expand our offering upskilling local community groups and organisations who support older people across the country through a mix of in-person and online training sessions. We want older people to feel empowered and Hi Digital will enable them to gain valuable digital skills ensuring, competence and confidence.”

From today people can participate in the programme online at www.hidigital.ie or can register their interest in taking part in group classes or one to one mentoring which will go live in the new year online or through the dedicated number:1800 203030.