How to become a digital curator for your grandmother

6 min


At the end of 2018 in Russia appeared professional standard for a new profession – a digital curator. Abroad digital curators Are the technicians responsible for collecting and storing data. In Russia, this will be the name given to digital literacy development consultants. Apparently, they will be most in demand among pensioners, mainly those who have tried to stay away from gadgets for many years.

The training of specialists in the new profession began in 2019–2020. On the Internet, you can find information about the recruitment of students (courses are very different both in the number of hours and in cost; there are also free ones – for students and schoolchildren), but it is not yet known what are the prospects for employment. Although the Russian media have repeatedly written that digital curator is a promising profession and such specialists will demanded, in September 2020, no vacancies have been found for them on electronic bulletin boards.

For those retirees who have children and grandchildren, of course, life is easier: they will be helped to set up a smartphone or make an online payment. You can go further and, without waiting for specially trained people, act as digital curators yourself and teach your parents and grandparents to use modern technology.

Why are we writing about this? One of the topics that we regularly raise and study at the RCT Training Center is the topic of technology accessibility and the ethical development of digital public services. Such services that will be available to all recipients, not just those who are technically competent, with good eyesight and knowledge of the office.

A little about the professional standard

Chairman of the Russian Society “Knowledge”, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education and Science Lyubov Dukhanina singles out two levels of training for digital curators. The basic one will be able to master high school students, the higher one will be available to students, graduate students and those people who choose this occupation as a second profession. The task of such specialists is to help people use digital services.

What a digital curator should know and be able to do in Russia

It follows from the professional standard that a digital curator must “work on a personal computer at the level of a confident user”, and also:

  • know the rules of business etiquette and correspondence, correctly draw up documentation;
  • be able to handle search engines, select and structure information;
  • own basic programs for maintaining databases;
  • conduct a dialogue, taking into account the age and individual characteristics of the interlocutor;
  • organize counseling for people with disabilities with the involvement of specialists;
  • select and apply information security tools.

Required knowledge:

  • Types and basic user characteristics of mobile devices.
  • Basic functions of operating and file systems; programs included in the package of typical applications of the operating system.
  • Browsers and e-mail programs, main online services for the provision of electronic services, portals of state and municipal services.
  • Information processing methods.
  • Basic principles of organization and functioning of computer networks, principles of construction and operation of databases.
  • Fundamentals of the legislation of the Russian Federation in the field of personal data and intellectual property, as well as the rules for the use of information materials.

Digital curator in practice – assistant for retirees

It is not yet clear when Russian pensioners will begin to massively use the services of digital curators, but it is obvious that they really need such help.

In 2020, during the COVID-2019 pandemic, the issue of applied skills was especially acute. People who can independently solve their problems using the Internet – they know how to communicate with loved ones via Skype, order food, have fun and study – are in a winning position. But it turned out that in Russia there are a lot of people who do not have a computer and a smartphone (or one computer per family). In addition, many pensioners, being the owners of bank cards, have no idea about banking or shopping on the Internet, and still the old fashioned way. receive a pension in cash

This spring, when Russian pensioners ran out of cash, they habitually moved towards a bank branch, sometimes even past an ATM – to a familiar and understandable operator (some of the pensioners had an account statement in the form of a passbook and did not use plastic cards). But most of the offices were closed due to the pandemic. After a while, banks came up with a way to deliver cash to the elderly using a courier that can be called by phone, but still the story of analog retirees in the digital world is very sad.

Things are no better abroad. In Great Britain study “Access to Cash”, commissioned by the government, showed that 17% of the adult population (over 8 million people) do not use bank cards.

Basic digital skills are the first thing retirees need to master

There are more and more elderly people in the world who receive services via the Internet, but so far no country can boast of one hundred percent computer literacy. What is the first thing to teach an older person who is included in the remaining interest? The key concept is “basic digital skills”, that is, skills that any confident user possesses.

Here are the basic skills to help an older person become a little more independent and happier:

  • government services (main portal gosuslugi.ru and regional portals);
  • online banking – cards and personal account;
  • online shopping, taxi order;
  • messengers and social networks;
  • search for information and entertainment content;
  • the basics of digital security, handling passwords, ways to protect yourself from fraud.

Top digital user skills in other countries

In the UK there is national standard on Basic Digital Skills, updated in 2019.

Initial UK User Level

  1. Use of devices. The user knows what hardware, software, operating system and application are, can find and install the application, apply system settings, including for ensuring accessibility.
  2. Search for information. Ability to navigate online content using hyperlinks, use navigation, search for necessary information; use of search engines.
  3. Information management. Opening, reading and saving information, working with files and folders for storing, organizing and retrieving information using local and remote storage.
  4. Identification and solution of technical problems. The ability to recognize that a technical problem has arisen, simple problems – to solve independently, with complex ones – to ask for help.

Several years ago, the Center for the Study of Pension Reforms (CIPR) held study “A different old age: a social portrait of” advanced “pensioners.” The attributes of an “advanced” pensioner described by experts also include the use of the Internet: shopping, social networks, banking, government services, mail, and entertainment content.

Top-3 digital skills of retireespromoted by the government of Singapore:

  • stay in touch with friends and family using internet applications;
  • use Internet banking and electronic payments and make purchases over the Internet;
  • read the press and e-books, listen to audiobooks.

During the quarantine, residents Singapore got free online access to mainstream media. In May 2020, the show “Study With Me” was broadcast on television in Singapore – its host and celebrity guests shared tips and talked about their favorite services and applications. The training sessions were also broadcast online. Seniors in Singapore can also call a digital volunteer to ask questions.

Users can get individual advice on the main functions of frequently used mobile applications or phone settings on the Microsoft Teams video platform. Online shopping and banking for older audiences are actively promoted by bloggers. Pollsin Singapore show that while social satisfaction among pensioners has declined in the wake of the pandemic, it has remained higher for those who have used digital technology.

IN India also are struggling social isolation of older people through digital technologies. Local charities are teaching their seniors to use smartphones, make online transactions, make reservations, order taxis and pay bills online, and chat and search for entertainment content.

Social connections are becoming the main driver of digitalization. 74-year-old resident Australia told that the pandemic pushed her to digital technologies: the book club, in which she has been a member for 10 years, held a meeting remotely for the first time. “We were forced to master technology to preserve the quality of life,” says the pensioner. Remotely explaining how the service works is not easy. A lot of people faced this while doing emergency digitalization of their quarantined parents. But if there is motivation, learning progresses quickly.

Australian researchers from Institute of the Third Age study the impact of technology on the social connections of older people. They note that the need for communication encourages older people to improve their digital literacy. If the person was a member of a circle or group before the pandemic, then there is a good chance that meetings will continue online. “I know a 94-year-old man who persuaded his 93-year-old friend to buy an old iPad and taught him to press a button for a video call every morning,” said one of the teachers at the Australian University of the Third Age.

Features of teaching the elderly

When teaching older people, it is necessary to take into account their characteristics. These are not only age-related changes – decreased activity, memory and cognitive functions – but also life experience. Do not underestimate people of retirement age, considering them dependent and lack of initiative, and communicate with them condescendingly, like with children. The ability to set priorities and make decisions is very important for older students. Support from loved ones is no less important.

Mexican specialists on digital technologies, it is recommended to consider the following points when teaching older people:

  • Knowledge must meet the personal and social needs of a person.
  • Collaboration is important in group learning: teamwork, interaction and support.
  • The knowledge gained should facilitate communication: training makes it possible to write to relatives, find youth friends, make new connections, make an appointment with a doctor.
  • The elderly person should be the protagonist in their own learning. The content and style of the course should be tailored to suit their interests and expectations.

Motivation is the main factor. As they embark on learning, older people need to understand what benefits – understandable for them – will give them new knowledge. Grandma will be able to watch her favorite movie online and improve her gardening skills, and the fishing grandfather will find out about the places with the best cool and find the train schedule. Or vice versa. The teaching methods can also be different: for someone, one explanation is enough, someone wants to take notes, for some it is more convenient to study gadgets from a book, others prefer video lessons. Be patient, explain in a simpler way, be prepared for the fact that everything will have to be repeated, and more than once.

In Russia, there are digital educational programs for pensioners in many regions, but due to the pandemic, it is not clear when they will resume and how they will change. So if you’ve decided to become a digital curator for your relative, it’s definitely time to do so this year!

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