HelpAge India initiated its nation-wide programme, Project Surakshit, with grant support from Google, with the aim to digitally secure senior citizens so they can protect themselves from online fraud and scams. starting on Safer Internet Day on February 7th, HelpAge India initiated a series of Digital Safety workshops across 16 states, to simultaneously train over 1000 senior citizens.
The workshops, organised in coordination with Senior Citizens Associations, offer seniors essential training on digital safety, equipping them with critical skills to navigate the internet safely and securely and seek the benefits of online digital conveniences. HelpAge aims to drive more awareness among this vulnerable community so that elders are informed and prepared to identify and address common online scams. The workshops include a customized curriculum which covers seven modules, giving guidance on various online safety topics such as: creating a strong password, staying safe while banking online, safely paying utility bills online, device protection, spotting online scams, staying safe on WhatsApp and booking a cab safely online.
With the rapid advancement of digital services such as online payments, ordering daily wares, banking and shopping, the vulnerability of the elderly population has increased. Late adopters of digital technology, the elderly are considered easy targets for online fraudsters.
“These training workshops are a necessity; we seniors need them in today’s day and age with the increasing number of online scams that are taking place. Especially for myself, I feel very scared to touch any link on my phone, fearing my savings will go,” says 61-year-old Ms. Aruna Gupta, a Senior Citizens Association Member.
“The pandemic catapulted the need for the adoption of digital technology for elders to the forefront. In today’s day and age, living in digital isolation is not an option, with not only vital health and safety services being linked to our smartphones, but also our daily needs and requirements such as ordering groceries, paying bills online, internet banking etc, the list is endless. Social connections are also imperative to stay mentally active and healthy, as the lockdown brought to fore the extreme isolation and distancing our elders went through. While the younger generation found it easier to adapt, many senior citizens struggled with this sudden shift. This also made them far more susceptible to online frauds and scams. Through ‘Project Surakshit’, HelpAge India is trying to create a safer environment for elders and hopes to bridge the digital divide, so no elder gets left behind and vulnerable,” says Rohit Prasad, CEO, HelpAge India.
“Each day, millions of Indians turn to the web to navigate opportunities across the breadth of their lives. While this experience is intuitive to millions, it is unnerving for the elderly in our families. Senior citizens are more vulnerable to online risk because they may not have the same level of comfort with technology. Google.org is proud to support HelpAge India on Project Surakshit, and the effort to bring critical digital safety training and awareness to senior citizens across the country. The Digital Safety Workshops are the first step in this program, to increase social participation and inclusion for senior citizens, and in turn, their own confidence online,” says Annie Lewin, Head of Advocacy and Asia Pacific, Google.
“We work with and for Senior Citizens Associations’ across the country, and felt the growing need for digital safety measures to be adopted by elders. Senior citizens can lose their hard-earned savings by succumbing to online scams. We need to empower them with the knowledge of spotting and identifying these scams and taking preventive measures, so their money is secure and they can enjoy and safely explore the digital world, which has so much to offer”, says Sonali Sharma, Head, Communications & Mission Head – Digital Literacy Program, HelpAge India.
The workshops are being conducted across Delhi, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Puducherry, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.