Computers are everywhere: on desks at work, in our bags, on tables and kitchentops at home… you’d think that they’re ubiquitous for everyone! But for large groups of our population, they represent not an opportunity for entertainment, communication, and work, but a significant obstacle to be overcome.
The elderly across the world often face the biggest difficulty in accessing, using and understanding the powerful technology at our fingertips. The challenges come in several fronts: simple fear often grips the elderly, as they struggle to know even how to connect up, charge and turn on the simplest of devices. Then there are issues with accessibility for those who suffer arthritis or Parkinson’s disease or poor hand-eye coordination. Lastly, elderly users are often unfamiliar with security, privacy and safety online, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.
Poor and disadvantaged segments of our population also fare poorly when it comes to computer access. Computers are quite expensive even today, with simple systems costing hundreds of dollars for just a basic setup. Mobile apps have gone some way to making things more affordable, but they are still unable to provide the full range of capabilities that a regular computer can. This undermines these groups access to education, work and training throughout their lives. Perhaps even to the extent that they become technologically disadvantaged throughout their working lives.
The last group for whom the computer offers a unique set of challenges is those with physical disabilities that limit some or all of the current input methods. We rely heavily on keyboard/mouse interaction for controlling a computer, but this doesn’t help those who face difficulties with hand coordination, not to mention the blind or partially-sighted population.
The benefits of using computers have been felt by large swathes of the population across the world. But if we want everyone to have fair and equal access to our world of work, community and entertainment, we need to provide the means for the elderly, poor and disabled population to grasp the opportunities provided by our computer age. But do these groups offer investment opportunities? I’d say so…