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Digital technology is a valid solution to the significant, yet not sufficiently discussed, issue of ageism. In light of International Youth Day 2022, a world leveraging the full potential of all generations is necessary.

The key to sustainable development is fostering fair intergenerational relations and opportunities, ensuring that no one is left behind. An essential factor in achieving this is building a greater sense of connectedness through digital technology.

In a highly digitalized society, equal opportunities to access and use digital technology are critical for social inclusion and participation. By empowering the youth, maximizing new ways of working and removing the stereotype of ageism towards older people, the lack of diversity in a digital future can be addressed.

Creating a world for all ages is a universal objective, since both older and younger people deserve the right to be connected. Efforts in bridging the gap in device familiarity, service access and online platforms are ongoing and deemed particularly valuable in the long run. 

Youth in ICT

Ensuring the prevalence of digital literacy can empower young individuals to become more digitally engaged and to hold more positive attitudes toward their own aging. It is more likely that tech-native and digital-savvy youths can immerse themselves within a digital economy.

In the Middle East, countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are leading the way in reducing the digital skills gap. The Arab world has one of the largest youth populations globally. By starting early with digital education, the youth can be well equipped for the future workforce.

Schools are now using various forms of online education platforms, with the more ambitious institutions adopting cloud-based communications, virtual reality, augmented reality and other immersive technologies. This helps students be more well versed in technologies early and easily shift to learning advanced ICT skills later on (e.g. artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cloud, cybersecurity, etc.)

Government authorities and the ICT industry – particularly telecom players – contribute to building the talent ecosystem through open collaboration with academia and tech-intensive initiatives. Companies like Huawei and Ericsson are actively engaging in developing the most talented youth, locally and globally.

Participating in the modern world is putting a lot of pressure on learning new digital technologies and skills. This is why the approach to digital literacy must be tailor-made and adjusted in the best possible way, from primary age.

This will add great value to minors’ capabilities to make informed life choices and decisions while being involved in tech-focused industries. Indeed, ubiquitous connectivity will create new business models that demand entirely new talents and skills. A great example of this is seen nowadays in the rise of digital nomads within the gig economy.

Digital Nomads

Powered by digital technology, remote work and flexible hours are enjoyed by millions of digital nomads worldwide. To define, digital nomads are location-independent people who make a living by working online. They can constantly be on the move as long as they can stay connected.

Investopedia research found that the average Nomad is about 35 years old, with income skewing higher than average – 38% earning $75,000 and above and about 26% earning less than $25,000 per year.

As part of the gig economy on the rise, these digital nomads adapt to the changing nature of work and embrace digital upskilling. Whether you are just a fresh graduate or you already have plenty of professional experience, having a balanced mix of hard and soft skills is key for a lucrative digital career. These include important 21st-century capabilities such as excellent communication, creativity, design thinking, leadership skills and innovation.

Dubai has been ranked one of the best cities in the world for digital nomads to live and work in. The Emirate’s agility to embrace the future of work through specialized digital frameworks and offerings has made it an ideal environment for digital entrepreneurs. Managing Director of selected members of TECOM Group Majed Al Suwaidi commented, “Our near 100 percent internet penetration rate, our plethora of housing and hospitality options across various price points, co-working spaces and smart services make setting up in Dubai seamless and hassle-free.”

In fact, the UAE unveiled a one-year residency permit for remote workers to attract more talent to the region and boost business opportunities. Even Ras Al Khaimah, UAE’s nature-based Emirate, has positioned itself as the “ideal work from home” location by organizing the Live RAK Play program, available until September 2022. It features a range of long-stay offers across numerous hotels, ensuring optimal levels of work productivity with seamless and complimentary Wi-Fi as well as discounted rates on laundry, telephone calls and food and beverage.

Being a digital technology enabler in remote work, the Etisalat CloudTalk service features HD video virtual meetings, desktop sharing with screen sharing functionality, whiteboarding using an interactive tool that facilitates creativity and toll-free audio conferencing.

According to forecasts, this global nomadic workforce, capable of plugging in anywhere in the world with a decent internet connection, will make up 1 in every 3 employees.

Older People in Tech

Older persons are often stereotyped as those who dislike digital technology or are rather less capable and unwilling to adopt it. While technology holds promise to improve the lives of older people, a digital divide has opened up between older and younger generations.

Despite this, a great proportion of older persons report a high willingness to learn and consider many digital technologies as relevant to their lives. Either for leisure, personal development or health reasons, digital adoption for adults aged 50 and above has consistently increased since 2014, making the baby boomer generation the most rapidly growing group of internet adopters.

Among all use cases, communication via video call or online services is a widely accepted and desired means of accompanying older persons in their everyday lives. Emerging technologies such as wearables, voice activation and biometrics also offer great convenience and accessibility for older people.

Supporting senior Emirati citizens and pensioners, du announced exclusive business mobile and government plans to specifically provide more value for money and mobile plan benefits for seniors to meet their communication requirements and improve their lifestyles.

Even on the corporate side, age discrimination against technical capabilities and workplace culture exists. Yet, a key to creating a balanced workforce is not only focusing on the youth, but also building upon the experience and insights of older people. When the generations are merged together, this can bring a more beneficial impact to the business community.

Unsurprisingly, the next generation of seniors is expected to spend many of their golden years using the internet, smartphones, tablets and various software applications. According to a 2021 survey, nearly one in five seniors plan to work beyond the age of 70. For this reason, we could see a continuous trend in older people becoming familiar with new and relevant digital technologies.

Telehealth or digital health is a testimony to how the elderly could benefit from connectivity. With a tap of a finger, a senior should be able to communicate with a health coach, start a video call with a medical professional or follow an exercise routine from their device. Building relationships and trust is essential, as is having a virtual support team who can watch over seniors and assist them when needed.

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