Startup Idea: Digital Literacy Service

Person holding a smartphone

Start a company that teaches older people how to use technology to improve their lives. It is essential to tell older people how all the cool new technologies work, and how they can stay safe online. Older people are as vulnerable to cyber attacks as teenagers. It’s time we think about the troubles an entire generation is facing.

Q/A Time!

Why tho?

First of all, the cliche! Solving a problem for yourself, or people you know about is probably the best way to start a company.

Then comes the niche! Everyone in their teens or twenties were lucky enough to get their hands into the latest and greatest technologies when they were kids. They use all kinds of gadgets and make use of tonnes of online services. They book a movie ticket online, order food at home, shop, and hop into a cab back home, all using their smartphone. Back at home, their parents struggle to close a pop-up advertisement displayed by an app in the smartphone gifted by their children. Right there. That’s a group of people (the niche) who were left behind while they were working hard to bring up their children – the dumb parents of parents of these smart children.

Convince me.

Close your eyes, imagine a random old man in his 50s, who just got a new smartphone. He’s sitting at home, and someone connected his phone to the home Wi-fi and had set up his email account.

Now ask these questions.

  • Can he leverage the power of technology that he is holding?
  • Wouldn’t it be more fun if he could explore more of the internet, in a more creative, lively, and fun way?
  • Wouldn’t his life change if he knew all those hubs and arts?
  • Would he ever discover that there is an app for everything?

That’s fun. Now think about these boring stuff.

  • Would they use their phone the same way we used it?
  • When would he learn that his bank would never ask for pin code and expiry dates of their debit card?
  • How would he react to the notifications that there are single mothers around him, and they want to meet him tonight?
  • Would hi also install a toolbar on their browser while trying to open an email attachment as we did?
  • Would he also make a new Nigerian friend and remit him a small sum of money to help him transfer back a fortune?
  • Would he ever find out that he doesn’t need to worry when a dialog box inside a webpage warns him of a pending antivirus update?

Poor folks.

The internet has always been a bundle of joy and surprises for people like me. The bookmarks, subscriptions, saved posts, answers, and comments from forums are my treasures. The influencers from around the globe have changed the way I look at the world and myself. I have talked about my darkest secrets with a random person. I have almost sent a month’s earnings to some spammer; I have typed my password in a phishing webpage. I have had hundreds of comment wars with strangers in random forums.

I have hopped from one messaging app to another, one social network to another. I have sometimes written a blog or two here and there, have created a profile on several freelance job portals. Once I even tried to change the world by sharing a link to a signature collection campaign. Once I signed myself up as a counselor on a website and helped dozens of depressed and worried people from all around the world. Sometimes I used to feel so worthless, and sometimes so powerful. All on the internet.

I believe we need to teach our parents how to use the tools they have at stake? I think it’s time we teach them the basics of online presence, and share a bit of our knowledge about security and privacy. I want to see a digital literacy campaign started for older people.

  • Would more mommies start sharing their favorite recipes with her friends?
  • Would they order a watch online for their husbands on for their birthday?
  • Would more retired daddies play multiplayer games with their school friends instead of suffering from a mid-life crisis?
  • Would a grandmom be earning off her recipe videos, or a dad off of his car washing tutorial?

Ideally, an entire generation would become curious once again in their lives. The happiness in their eyes would be priceless when they open up a parcel they ordered online, or when they receive a payout for their last month’s ad revenue. Life would once again be fun and games for the grey-haired people. Swiping up-and-up all day watching 15-seconds clips, sharing a selfie with the aunty next door, playing ludo, and other fun games with spouse – why should the kids have all the fun? Subscribing to other fun-loving old couples from the other corner of the world, and getting a notification when they post yet another video of them dancing would bring back the long lost joy in their lives.

Unfortunately, they look at the technology like an 8th grader would look at first-order differential equations. Some people never tried, some have tried and failed, and some people have discovered that they only need to know a few rules to solve them. For the majority of people, the internet is making their lives easier because their kids now pay the utility and telephone bills through their mobile wallets. They know they can video-call their daughter living in Australia while making a ginger-garlic paste in the kitchen. Apart from that, the internet is a mystery hidden inside a little white box with blinking lights.

बाबु, नेटको पैसा सक्किएजस्तो छ, रिचार्ज गर्देऊ न !

– Hey son, the internet isn’t working. Could you top-up the balance?

I have tried to introduce my parents to technology as much as I would do to my kids. My dad never used a computer, but now knows how to read an email. He plays the games that we make and tells us when he discovers a problem. He can differentiate advertisements from notifications and knows better than clicking the button highlighted with dark patterns. He sometimes broadcasts live from any family gatherings for relatives who didn’t attend. My mom is happier with the 15-second videos with lip-sync than with fake news and political arguments. Mom sometimes takes selfies with people she likes and adds them as a friend in her social media. They know how to add a new contact, how to delete a long video to save on space, and how to add more people to group video chats. For people who spent all their lives struggling to keep the bills paid, and who never had a smartphone, that’s an achievement. They have become happier and more social in general.

If only there was someone who regularly send them tips about creating an email or any other account in general, installing new apps/software, online privacy and security. Going further, they could help these parents monitor their children’s activities online.