Knowledge Volunteers

By Annaleda Mazzucato
06 July 2013

Introduction - Project aims and collaborators

The Knowledge Volunteers” (TKV) project tackles the risk of exclusion of the growing ageing population and the gap between generations, through ICT and intergenerational learning methodology.

TKV encourages the debate on the exclusion of the older generation, and at the same time raises awareness and concretely contributes to the recognition of how the elderly can contribute actively to society using digital competences.

The project has been developed and coordinated by Fondazione Mondo Digitale,  an Italian NGO,  together with the University of Edinburgh and  five organisations based in Europe and specialised in adult learning and volunteering: 50plus Hellas (Greece) Societatea Romana Pentru Educatie Permanenta (Romania), Foundaciòn Para el Desarollo Infotecnologico de Empresas (Spain), Centrum vizualizace a interaktivity vzdÄ›lávánĂ­ Ostrava (Czech Republic) and International Communication Volunteers – ICVolunteers (Switzerland). The project is funded by the European Commission's Grundtvig Programme.

Isolated seniors

The isolation of older people is a challenging issue in the Italian society as well as in all the countries involved in the project, as witnessed by the interview data collected for the project evaluation.

Floriana, one of the Italian teachers participating in the project remarks about the need for socialization opportunities among older people:

“Older people have a big need to communicate and socialize […] Most of them are lonely people. Their relatives are out of the city or out of country. So they [the elderly] have the opportunity to communicate with them, efficiently and free of charge", referring to ICT, also suggesting that this problem may come from an old common habit (perhaps also related to the previous totalitarian regime):

"They are not used to going out of their houses and do things together, because this is the way they have grown in the past years”.

Living in isolation, without contacts with the world outside apart from the contact resulting from daily necessities (house work, shopping etc.), means leading a very non-stimulating life.

Discovering the digital world

During 2 years of activities implementation, from October 2011 to September 2013, TKV raised awareness and changed elders’attitude in using the PC, realising the enhancement of the digital competences of more than 1000 elders in 5 European countries. In practice this was achieved through the digital literacy training courses the project has been providing, including four levels of classes, from ABC of ICT to social networking, easy technology and e-government services that allowed elders to become able to communicate with friends and families worldwide, to search on line for information about what to do in their free time or to book a medical reservation via the web.

The Evaluation Report  of the first year of training courses, published recently by Fondazione Mondo Digitale and University of Edinburgh, demonstrates that most of the seniors enrolled in the courses had few or limited knowledge about the PC and found difficulties in understanding and remembering basic subjects as to how the PC or the Internet work.

In all the countries, the elderly participants improved their PC skills after they completed the course programme. See tables 1 to 3 below for more details.

As a result of their experience within the project, participants declared they will continue practicing with the PC after the end of the courses, in some cases using a friend’s PC or going to libraries or a social centre. Some of them will enrol in other courses and purchase a personal computer to exercise and use the Internet to remain informed.

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