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Statistics Estonia should collect data on Internet usage by the elderly

Statistics Estonia carries out a household Internet usage mapping survey, in the framework of which only people up to 74 years old are questioned. The objective of this survey is to collect data about information technology devices and Internet usage among the residents of Estonia.

The questions used in the survey give essential information about Estonia’s economy and the usage of public sector services. The data from this survey is, among other things, used to develop and implement the development plan for Estonia’s information society. Thus, the data collected with the survey is necessary to assess the objectives set in the development plan and to develop the services. This data is also required for people older than 74 years of age, currently comprising nearly 10% of the population.

It is probable that Internet usage among people older than 74 years is lower than that of other age groups. However, acquiring updated data about this cannot be considered less important. In comparison, 54% of surveyed people who were 65-74 years old use the Internet and the percentage of computer users has rapidly increased in this age group, especially in recent years. People who have used the Internet before will likely continue doing so when they get older.

The main reason why the elderly do not use the Internet is a lack of skills. Older people have lagged behind the rest of the population when it comes to Internet usage due to a lack of skills. However, more extensive use of the Internet may help to increase their quality of life. Thereby, one aspect of the Estonian information society development plan is to support equal opportunities. To decrease the digital divide, EUR 7.2 million has been set aside in the state budget for 2017-2020.

Internet access is taken for granted by most people in Estonia and this service can already be considered a basic necessity. Computer skills training and Internet usage is associated with subjective well-being and quality of life for the elderly as well. This can be a significant tool for supporting the elderly when solving issues associated with living arrangements. For instance, to avoid social isolation, solve practical issues, and in case of reduced mobility, encourages life-long learning and cultural participation.

The objective is to increase the percentage of Internet users among the entire population by 2020, from the current 88% to 95%. The means for this include digital literacy and other training as well as raising awareness. Considering the above, it is very important to also collect data about the Internet usage of people older than 74 years of age. There is no good reason to distinguish 75-year-olds and older people from the rest of the population when collecting Internet usage data; as such, leaving them out of the survey is not justified. For these reasons, the Chancellor of Justice advises the Statistical Office to also collect Internet usage data from people older than 74 years of age.