Shibuya Ward Starts Lending Smartphones to Elderly Residents


Tokyo, Sept. 12 (Jiji Press)--Tokyo's Shibuya Ward has started to lend smartphones to elderly residents in an experiment aimed at narrowing the digital divide, which is becoming evident amid the novel coronavirus crisis.

Digitalization is accelerating for many aspects of life, including work, shopping and personal exchanges, due to the pandemic, while the digital gap, or the information gap between people benefiting from the digitalization drive and those left behind the move, such as elderly people many of whom do not have smartphones or computers, is also becoming wide.

The experiment by Shibuya Ward started Monday last week, lending smartphones to about 1,700 participating residents aged 65 or over for two years. Many of them are in the age group of 75 to 84, and the oldest participant is 101 years old. A lecture on how to use smartphones began the same day, with a total of four sessions slated to be held until December.

The smartphones are equipped with the Line messaging app, which gives the participants access to information on daily life and possible disasters from the Shibuya Ward office, a disaster prevention app and the Zoom videoconferencing system, which enables online diagnosis. Fees for voice calls and data communications will paid by the ward office.

A dedicated call center was also set up to allow the participants to ask questions any time. "We will thoroughly support the participants as we want to hear them say after the end of the program that 'using the smartphone was fun' or 'the smartphone helped me in time of a disaster,'" a Shibuya official in charge of the program said.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press